Monday, May 02, 2005

Live Review: Dizzee Rascal@Double Door 4/30/05

For the last night of his first North American headlining tour, Dizzee Rascal invaded the Double Door Saturday for a rousing night of grime and rhyme. His first visit to America's third coast, Rascal tore up the place and left fans exhausted at the end. If you're not familiar with Dizzee Rascal, he is by far the breakout star of the UK's grime scene, a new style of music born out of the London underground that fuses good ol' American hip-hop with music evolved from England's underground "garage" (aka "2-step") dance movement. In reality that's a bit of an oversimplification, especially when it comes to describing the music of Dizzee Rascal. Dizzee's rhyme style is fast and frenetic and unlike anything we've heard here in the States. While the crowd at this show certainly attested to the danceability of his music, Dizzee sure as hell ain't Craig David and you probably won't be hearing his latest jam at your downtown trixie-infested dance club anytime soon. That being said, it was an interesting crowd at Double Door. The show had not sold out ahead of time, which lead me to believe that perhaps the grime phenomenon had not took hold into the inner reaches of the continent yet. However, the long and narrow confines of the Double Door quickly reached close to capacity and the room was filled with more than just the usual conglomeration of hip kids in-the-know. Trixies dressed up in their best club attire, Abercrombie-wearin' dudes, stoner kids, hip-hoppers and even a couple geezers (the American kind, not the ubiquitous English bloke) were all interspersed with Double Door's usual predominately young,white indie-rock crowd. So perhaps grime had infected the masses of middle America?? least on a small scale? This theory was proven even more by the response to the live turntable set from opener DJ Wonder. The tightly squeezed crowd was groovin' along to every beat of his set that consisted solely of underground grime tracks. The crowd really erupted whenever Wonder dropped a track from the recently released compilation, Run the Road, the first grime primer released on this side of the pond. I'm guessing the comp hasn't sold thousands of copies in Chicago yet, but of those that have picked it up, I'd say 90% of them had come out to see this show. And yes, while everyone enjoyed shakin' their ass to DJ Wonder's set, it was really just a warm-up exercise for the main attraction, Captain Rascal himself. Jumping on stage to one of the most enthusiastic welcomes I've ever heard at Double Door, Dizzee started off the set with an acappella version of "Sittin' Here," the first track from his debut album, performed appropriately enough while sitting down with the stage lights off. A nice excitement builder and an essential introduction of his craft to the virgin audience who were experiencing Rascit for the first time in their city. After the intro, Rascal kicked it in to high gear and never let up the rest of the night. Aided by just a hypeman (Big Scope) on stage and a DJ behind him (DJ Semtex), Dizzee literally kept the audience jumpin all night. Even on a couple of his slower jams like "Jezebel" and "Respect Me," Rascal never let his energy down and always kept the audience engaged. I've been a huge of Rascal ever since his debut was released in the States last January and thought he and his crew sounded crew sounded great live. However, by the middle of the set, I have to admit that my enthusiasm was started to wane a bit. It certainly wasn't the quality of the material, nor was from a lack of energy and presence on stage from Dizzee. At the time, I thought that perhaps in my case, Dizzee was just preachin' to the long converted. His first two records just blew me away, and I had been listening to them for a while, so perhaps I couldn't be blown away anymore? I had maxed out on my enjoyment of these tracks? In hindsight, a more reasonable explanation for my mild malaise was that the first half of the set just really tight and by the books. Like I said, I thought it sounded great, but since I had heard these tracks a million times and they sounded almost identical live, I just wasn't getting the same euphoria as I did over a year ago when I first bumped Boy in da Corner in the car with the bass cranked up. But alas, like any good performer, Dizzee kicked in the reserves for the home stretch and really brought the house down to close out the night. The turn-around for me came at the performance of "Jus a Rascal." After a couple of slower tracks and a very brief break to talk to the audience, the hyper intro to "Jus a Rascal" started and the place just exploded. The floor of the old venue literally started to bounce along with the crowd and it was impossible not to start groovin' along with everyone to this infectious track. This was quickly followed by an interpolation of the Dead Pres' track, "Bigger than Hip-Hop," which got the crowd raisin' the roof and the floor at the same time. This momentum was maintained through the rest of the performance, thanks to more improvised (or, more likely, planned variations of) beats behind the rhymes, more interaction with the crowd from Dizzee and Co., and hot tracks like "Fix Up, Look Sharp" and "Stand Up Tall," which were naturally saved until the end. All in all, this was a really great show. Dizzee Rascal is truly one of the few artists that lives up to the hype, both live and on record. I think my only disappointment is that I wasn't able be experience this live show a year earlier. Experiencing tracks like "I Luv U" and "Fix Up, Look Sharp" for the first time in a live setting would have been mind blowing. Hopefully Dizzee will be back to tour the states sooner after his next record, but regardless, I'll still be first in line to see him again. In the meantime, keep buyin' his records and check out that Run the Road comp, maybe if they sell enough copies we could get an entire grime tour here in the states. Imagine, Dizzee and The Streets co-headlining a tour with a supporting cast of Wiley, Lady Sovereign, God's Gift, etc. Now that would be a hot tour...however they'd have to book it at somewhere else besides Double Door, I think the floor would literally collapse at that one.


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