A lot is riding on tonight’s Death Grips show and Simon Bird is penciled in on support. It’s a tough act for anyone to open for but he’s captivating and confident. As he executes a solid set, the masses flow in for the Californian hip-hop trio. Death Grips is sold out in advance tonight, this is partially due to the rhythmic talents of Zach Hill, so when rapper MC Ride and producer Andy Morin arrive onstage as a duo, it’s hard not to feel a little let down. The producer hangs back with a sampler and though he earns points for showmanship and DIY etiquette, there’s a hint of laziness about his set up. Stefan Burnett aka MC Ride somewhat redeems the affair, his raw and brutal performance making him seem larger than life. Excuse the overused pun but there is a sense that he is almost superhuman; he is that charismatic, that omnipresent.
Death Grips cancelled last year’s tour and to come back without a drummer is perhaps a little brazen. One can’t help but ponder how incredible the whole night could be with Zach Hill driving the beats; if it wasn’t just the producer triggering samples from a beat up drum machine, in the corner of the stage. On a positive note, tracks like ‘I’ve Seen Footage’, ‘Get Got’ and ‘The Fever (Aye Aye)’, all from The Money Store, send fans into a tizzy of delight. Not many artists could invoke such a reaction on an otherwise uneventful Monday night. The controversial new album No Love Deep Web which saw them lose their contract with Epic is also familiar and much loved territory and warmly received.
All in all, the content is brilliant but the delivery is off and it’s desperately missing something. A drum machine is no substitute for Hill’s rhythmic genius, and the beats are far too low in the mix, somewhat drowned out by the hum of the crowd. They’re only kidding themselves if they think they’re getting away with it as a replacement. The rhythm section behind Death Grips is something that’s meant to be heard live and not as a sample and it’s hard not to let go of the disappointment of Hill’s absence. Sure there’s an impressive vocal delivery, but few could compensate for the absence of such a figurehead.
Yes, they’ve had a rough time with this album; sure, they’ve taken a while to get here, but that’s all the more reason to give it everything. No doubt, there are a slew of talented drummers out there that would gladly fill Zach Hill’s shoes, not to mention some of the Irish drummers out there that could easily do so. Recruiting a drum machine in his stead is a poor, and somewhat unforgivable, move and leaves us with a huge letdown.