Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip, B Dolan, Team Fresh
It's never a good sign when a gig is shifted to a smaller venue. This is usually indicative of an artist on the wane, someone whose time has past. It does have its upsides though, meaning that what could have been much larger is more intimate.
It also provides the opportunity for Team Fresh to be more in your face with more of the crowd than the wide-open spaces of the Mandela would have been. By applying rap and hip-hop's techniques of loops and beats to the guitar-based heritage of the North Coast, they create an authentic sound of their own, thus dismissing any accusations of wannabes aping the genre. Plus it's damn good fun, as songs about drugs and booze mix it with weightier topics about divisive politics and troubled history.
Our middle act is rather different to our openers. For a start, he's American, and secondly, eschews live instrumentation, relying instead on backing tracks. What's most apparent though is that B Dolan is a big man in a mask. Playing up to the lazy rest-of-the-world dislike of Yanks, he's nearer a stand-up than hip-hop artist, threatening that as it's the last night of the tour anything can happen, including nudity. He's at home though, the damp, cool climate and background levels of sarcasm welcoming his inner grump. He hides his issues in comedy, touching vampirism, religious fundamentalism (involving a rather popular blasphemous reference to Joan of Arc using a cross, and an account of how Marvin Gaye's life ended), and the economic crisis (prompting distribution of Bank of Dolan dollars). His climax though is quite unique, stripping off to an Evel Knivel jumpsuit and, as it's the last night of tour, jumping over three prone audience members rather than the usual one, to the motivational Eye Of The Tiger.
Finally reaching our headliners, they give us "depressing songs" about depressing topics (suicide, violence, philosophy, politics - can't see those being tackled by Pop Factor puppets), but delivered with such panache and over such catchy beats that we don't realise we're being preached to. The relative failure of the second album, and their subsequent decline in the popular consciousness and the reason why we've been shifted, is hard to understand, such is the passion, humour and charisma of the performance. Inevitably it's the first album that pleases the crowd, 'The Beat That My Heart Skipped' opening their set and running through the inevitable costume-changing 'Angles', 'Thou Shalt Always Kill' and Radiohead-sampling encore 'Letter From God To Man'. The question is though, with their attacks against taking the easy option ("hip-hop is art, don't write a pop hit, be smart", while utilizing the same sample as Dizzee Rascal's early hit 'Fix Up, Look Sharp') are they laughing with us, or at us for being so easily pleased? Given their intelligence (instead of stereotypical rock and roll debauchery they go to museums and poetry recitals while on tour, particularly enjoying our local museum's belief that a picture of Johnny Depp represents a typical human), it's hard to tell.
Either way, it's irrelevant, for as it's the last night of the tour, they go a little crazy, with Scroobius crowd-surfing, offering wine to the injured, and, giving credence to their claim it's the best night on tour, encouraging the non-svelte B Dolan to be carried around the room. Here is where the smaller venue comes into its own because, to be frank, we'd never have got him from one side of the Mandela to the other. And to miss out on him "floating on an Irish sea" would have denied Scroobius and us a glorious memory.