Tonight must be the revamped Workman’s Club’s biggest triumph yet, crammed to the point of bursting with an eclectic and sweaty throng determined to strut their way through Le Sac Vs. Pip’s last gig for a year. The crowd includes Scroobius Pip’s beleaguered mother, a lad whose so determined to get the urban poet’s autograph that he spends most of the set holding out a pen and CD cover, and the kind of triumphant atmosphere more commonly associated with top sporting events.
It’s not just for the headliner, either. Kid A, who features on Le Sac Vs. Pip’s latest offering ‘Cauliflower’ is on her first ever tour, and working the room like an established pro. Only the touching affection towards the crowd for their between-song applause betrays this emotional electro artist’s subtle beats as being new to a live setting, and while the set up’s a touch simplistic at times, she demonstrates a truly promising level of catchy and personal song writing.
There’s no doubting that Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip are the main event, though, and both are greeted by enthusiastic chanting of their name and all the happy vibes that come with a group presenting hip-hop as a truly thought-provoking, educated concept. Scroobius Pip’s skill lies in his ability to string words together as rhythmically and effectively as anyone on the scene, yet still make a string of startlingly interesting and creditable points along the way. Teeming with righteous anger, Pip nonetheless manages to fall short of preachy, and it’s difficult to argue with the ideas he puts forward. Building his fast-paced witticisms into a chorus of pure, raucous bile that flows darkly and heavily into the crowd, the flow of his spoken-word rap pumps tonight’s horde to a level of explosive, fist pumping joy.
There’s an obvious intelligence to the pair’s music that’s sadly lacking in too much mainstream hip hop. Their crusade against ‘guns, bitches and bling’ (and all else dull and generic – see ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’) makes room for subject matter like the melancholy nationalism of ‘Great Britain’ (oddly fitting as an encore on Irish soil), and the darker moments of half a dozen songs about suicide or death, such as the brilliant ‘Tommy C’ and the touching ‘Magician’s Assistant’ (as performed in State Intervention format), which drills in the impact of suicide. Best of all, though, Scroobius Pip is able to bring his lyrical cleverness into the moment, too. In his ‘I’ll run for president’ speech, Pip promises Ireland crackers to go with the current government’s cheese. He has our vote. ‘Get Better’ comes with a motivational push to the assembled to take responsibility, and ‘Stake A Claim’ delves into the true nature of democracy in a way that lauds the right to protest, a pertinent message given the previous day’s student protests: “I as a citizen reserve the right to rise up”.
It’s hard not to be a touch hyperbolic in praise of such a performance. As a music lover who finds mainstream to be hip-hop to be horribly generic and meaningless, this comes across exactly the opposite. Driven by genuine intellectualism directed in the most positive of ways, and reproduced so effectively live, the only downside to tonight’s show is how long we’ll have to wait before catching the duo again. You’ll have to wait a year, but if you’re not digging Le Sac Vs. Pip just yet, seeing them live is certain to rectify that. This is as good a live show as we’ve seen this year. It’s loaded, thought provoking and meaningful in a way that not only this particular genre, but music in general too often fails to manage.
A few weeks ago, Manic Street Preacher’s Nicky Wire told us in interview that his biggest frustration with modern music is its throwaway nature and a lack of fight against the lows of modern day politics. Nicky, we suggest you look no further. Le Sac’s well-aligned mixing is an essential dimension, but it’s the lyrical poetry that makes the show: Scroobius Pip, you, Sir, are a genius.
Photos by Alan Moore.