Some of the Urban Classic aftermath:
Photos at 1Xtra: “It’s the night everyone’s been waiting for”
Robert Maycock in the Independent: “the biggest noise at the Empire was the squeal of institutions jumping into a fashionable bed.”
Peter Aspden and Alistair Macaulay in the Financial Times: “mostly a case of thumping backbeats receiving an unsophisticated melodic accompaniment, to perfectly pleasant effect.”
The grime crowd are giving biggest props to Bruza – as by far the biggest name on the night, this is fair enough. He did sound the most comfortable MC too, although Tor wasn’t far behind – here’s hoping we hear a lot more from her.
I can’t say the same for Pase and Purple though, who come over as the sanitised, sanctioned, product that Urban Classic always threatened to become.
Not surprisingly, the broadsheet critics (coming from a more ‘musicianly’ angle) are most impressed by Faith SFX. Concerns over ‘what’s the point of beatboxing’ notwithstanding, it’s good old-fashioned virtuosity that wins them over. Even a cynic like me has to admit that simply on the level of pure entertainment, it’s pretty bloody impressive. And the Faith SFX bits of the show came closest to a truly grimey sound – but this only left me wondering what might have been achieved if a proper drum track had been laid down for both orchestra and MCs to work against.
This revealed the show’s biggest weakness – everything that finally made it onto stage had been worked through an exclusively classical paradigm (and the dread 19th-century classical paradigm at that) that regards musicianship, virtuosity, live performance and a hierachical structure between composer, conductor and performers as the principal standards by which to judge music. An orchestra has to work very hard to break out of such conventions – and top marks to Bruza for trying to break those conventions in calling for the reload! Faith SFX and the four MCs were cast as concerto-esque soloists whose role was to confront the orchestra in only the narrow confines of a concertante format. Naturally, when the one individual with the most apparent virtuosity – Faith SFX – does his thing, the set up works best; he was also the most comfortable player in his role, with the four MCs sounding, on the whole, somewhat overwhelmed.
Faith SFX demonstrated that even if the night wasn’t a complete success, at least there is mileage in beatbox with orchestra. However, this seems doubly perverse; next time this classical vs electronica/urban crossover is attempted, could someone please bring some sequencers with them?