Music

Dizzee Rascal Redux

 

Dizzee Rascal
Forum Melbourne
Tuesday 20 February, 2018
(4 minute read)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I hadn’t really thought about or listened to Dizzee Rascal since I saw him live 8(!) years ago on a dangerously hot Australia Day in 2010 at the great but ill-fated Big Day Out. I was 17, and able to support two friends on my shoulders jumping to Bonkers with 20,000 other enraptured patrons at Melbourne’s Flemington Racecourse. I had just discovered Dizzee through Tongue ‘N Cheek in late 2009. That brilliant album, sometimes derided by implacable reviewers in The Guardian for its commercial detour to Armand Van Helden and Calvin Harris, introduced me and millions of others to Dizzee and the then-flowering genre of London Grime. 

Dizzee Rascal at Big Day Out in Sydney, 2010

By way of further context, Dizzee’s electronically-luscious hits Holiday, Dirtee Cash, Dance Wiv Me, and Bonkers provided the soundtrack to me falling for my first great love at the similarly ill-fated Pyramid Rock Festival in 2009-10. There we revelled in youth, sun, sea and curly hair on Phillip Island, without the tedious and HR-inspired ‘good life partner’ metrics that plague one’s mid-20s. And so it goes.

Thus it was without hesitation that I accepted a last-minute invitation to attend Dizzee’s intimate gig at the stunning Forum Melbourne on a balmy Tuesday summer evening. I spent two full days schooling up on his broader catalogue, and in particular his newest and sixth studio album Raskit (2017), which he was in town to promote.

Dizzee Rascal at Forum Melbourne,  photo by  Matilda Elgood , SYN

Dizzee Rascal at Forum Melbourne, photo by Matilda Elgood, SYN

Immediately returning to his Grimy roots, Mr Rascal opened his set with the lyrically brilliant Space. It is a sparse, bent, and angry anthem which reveals a maturation in Dizzee’s musical oeuvre and his lyrical and poetic development since he blew up in 2002. Here, Rascal cast the semblance of a brooding Prince Hamlet. His icy and staccato speech was fractured and words fired from his mouth like bullets from a machine gun, betraying an almost paranoid and under-siege psyche (perhaps from mixed reviews about The Fifth?): “I’ve been through hell and I’ve swallowed the ashes, / running this ting for so long as it happens, / I’m knackered, / All of my enemies broken and shattered, / sprinkling hate, / they’re all over the shop and they’re scattered”. Listen to the track and find yourself reading the rest of this piece in Dizzee’s irresistible Jafaican (Multicultural London English) accent and trochaic pentameter, with its bouncy glottal stops and juicy vowels.

Dizzee Rascal  at Forum Melbourne: photo by  Matilda Elgood , SYN

Dizzee Rascal at Forum Melbourne: photo by Matilda Elgood, SYN

Following this outstanding, swaggering and brooding opening, the punters were treated to a series of his grimy but unrelatable tracks (at least for Melburnians) – such as Ghost, Wot U Gonna Do and Make It Last. Disappointingly, Dizzee didn’t perform Raskit’s brilliant and relevant opening track Focus. It goes without saying that everyone enjoyed the filthy resounding bass and impressive lyrical dexterity of each track (my ears are still aching four days on), but many songs in the opening half of the gig lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. Fortunately, the punters were thrown a life rope with his exquisite Jus’ A Rascal (2003) about ten tracks deep, a tune which strikes that stunning balance between Grime and broader commercial appeal.

Dizzee Rascal  at  Forum Melbourne:  photo by  Matilda Elgood , SYN

Dizzee Rascal at Forum Melbourne: photo by Matilda Elgood, SYN

Reeling us in from all corners of the Forum, Dizzee resuscitated us with a barrage of his classic hits that we had all come to see (at least according to my market research at The Duke of Wellington beforehand). Drunk on nostalgia, we were treated to Fix Up, Look Sharp, the great and catchy new hit from Raskit Bop n’ Keep it Dippin, followed by the unbeatable flow of Heavy, Bassline Junkie, Dance Wiv Me, and Holiday. Dizzee then busted out You Got the Dirtee Love - that superb collaboration with Florence and the Machine - before informing the ecstatic crowd that he had breached Melbourne’s curfew regulations and had to leave the stage. This being Australia, half of the crowd (me included) believed him and resigned ourselves to filing out of the venue in an orderly manner. He returned triumphantly moments later, with the smile on his face and the lights illuminating the stage, to inform us that he “was jus’ jokin' wiv ya”.

He then dropped Bonkers, getting the whole crowd at the Forum jumping and heaving together in one final blissful moment of forgetting that life and work would roll around in 8 hours. For me, and I suspect for many others, it was also a blissful moment of remembering. What a time to be alive. ♦

 
 
One more unto the breach at the Duke of Wellington, Melbourne - 20.2.2018

One more unto the breach at the Duke of Wellington, Melbourne - 20.2.2018

 

Amy Winehouse, A Tribute

 

Memo Music Hall - St Kilda, Melbourne
Sunday Feb 4 2018

★ ★ ★ ★

Melbourne is a moveable feast in summer, and the 2018 St Kilda Festival made the offering all the richer with its February 4 tribute concerts to the late Amy Winehouse.

In conjunction with the Jewish Museum of Australia’s exquisite  ‘Amy Winehouse Exhibition’ (running until March 25), Memo Music Hall attendees were treated to a matinee offering of some of Australia’s most promising and established musical talents. Led by Darcy McNulty of Jazz Party, the ensemble brought to life the mixtape and catalogue of this once-in-a-generation artist.

Darcy McNulty, Jazz Party - image supplied

Darcy McNulty, Jazz Party - image supplied

Sydney-based Elana Stone was magnetic and the most natural and entertaining performer of the afternoon, infusing the poetry of ‘Valerie’ with her smooth and soulful voice. Rita Satch was similarly compelling. As McNulty observed, Satch’s voice has developed over the past five years so that she now resonates elements of Amy's smouldering voice, appearance and movements behind the microphone. She was irresistibly groovy performing ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’, ‘Mr Magic’ and ‘Stronger than Me’. The latter rendition demonstrated why Satch was the most adept at inhabiting the emotion and rhythm of Amy’s music. She communicated the soulful frustration of Amy’s life in a way that the other performers didn't, from infidelity and sexual disappointment to disintegrating relationships: “I just want to grip your body over mine / Please tell me why you think that’s a crime / I’ve forgotten all of young love’s joy”.

Rita Satch - Stronger Than Me

21-year-old wunderkind Alma Zygier was a revelation and probably the most unique and memorable vocalist of the show. Her otherworldly voice dripped with the sultriness and texture of some pre-War jazz singers (think Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald), which was enchanting when set against a more lilting musical arrangement. Her rendition of classic ‘Body and Soul’ was sublime and spellbinding, and Zygier seemed far more comfortable in this space than she did in her moving rendition of ‘Back to Black’. While Zygier is undeniably a phenomenon and future star who ably captured the sadness and vulnerability underneath Winehouse’s exterior, one yearned for the confident, ribald and defiant maturity of Amy’s (or Satch’s) voice when performing Amy’s catalogue. (But perhaps I am just unsophisticated and possess an unrefined musical palate).

Alma Zygier - image supplied

Alma Zygier - image supplied

Husky Gawenda (of Husky fame) delivered a mesmerising unplugged version of “You Know I’m No Good”. Slowed down and stripped of the complexity and busyness of instrumentation, Gawenda’s mellow voice afforded the sparse lyrics space for contemplation and a hardboiled poignancy made more tragic by Amy’s death: “I cheated myself / like I knew I would / I told you I was troubled / you know that I’m no good.

Husky Gawenda - You Know I'm No Good

Lachlan Mitchell closed out the matinee performance with ‘Rehab’. The best moment of this rollicking performance was when the band finally unbottled itself, allowing him to step into a more gravelly and full-throated swing: “I’m gonna, gonna lose my baby / so I always keep a bottle near / he said I just think you’re depressed / kiss me, yeah baby, and the rest”. Mitchell demonstrated a remarkable but understated and restrained charisma on stage.  He was a kind of bashful generalissimo - hands mostly in his pockets - beckoning the other performers to dance on stage before they finally brought the house down with Amy’s biggest hit.

The Jewish Museum of Australia, St Kilda Festival and Hear Them Holler should be commended for this outstanding cultural, historical and musical contribution to Melbourne. One reflects on the tragedy of Amy’s downward spiral and death, of the gaping hole she left in the music world, how her presence endures 7 years on, and how we waste many, many days not listening to jazz.

Lachlan Mitchell - Rehab

Alma Zygier performs Body and Soul

 
 

My favourite live performance - "Sweet reunion Jamaica and Spain, we're like how we were again"