It’s a cramped and frisky crowd that greets Scroobius Pip on his first Irish date since the release of Distraction Pieces, the album that saw him move away from musical partner Dan Le Sac for the first time. For many it’s the previous collaborative albums, Angles and Logic of Chance, that mark his brilliance but if murmurs from the audience are to be trusted then most of the sardines tonight seem to be here because of his latest work. Now that he’s sans Le Sac things have gone in a decidedly heavier direction. The electronic blips of the past have been replaced with metal riffs and aggressive drums. It’s hard to argue against them in this case seeing as they suit his prophetic lyrics perfectly. The live show now features a guitarist and drummer, adding even more verve to the bearded wordsmith.
With patience at an all time low the ‘warm up’ act towers on to the stage sporting a reptilian mask and a “wearelizards” t-shirt. A few hip-hop tracks are idly spun but many of the die-hards are privy to the ruse – support acts are never this tall. With a swipe of the mask and swig of wine Scroobius Pip reveals himself then launches into ‘Introdiction’. It’s an angry start to the night. Yet despite being lyrically fuming, he is actually remarkably pleasant mid song. So much so that one instance sees the crowd hurling money on stage at his request. Unfortunately, most of his booty consists of coins and the symbolic gesture morphs into an onslaught of metal missiles as each musician on stage dodges currency for their own safety. After all is calm Pip seems to have made a tidy side profit.
The banter between tracks is really what pushes this gig from stationary to active. By engaging the fans Scroobius Pip riles up more energy than the songs themselves so that when the lively ones are played the whole room erupts. ‘Soldier Boy Kill Em’ in particular stirs up an unruly mosh pit, while ‘Death of the Journalist’ becomes the architect of paranoia, causing panic at the possibility of the first lynching in decades.
Soothing rhythms then come in the form of ‘Broken Promise’ and ‘1000 Words’, a track that was originally just spoken word but has been adapted for the live show. For this, Pip takes a seat and reads from a notebook, giving him the impression of homeless seanachi who’s somehow lost his way. This is then punctuated with another swig of rose – after while it becomes clear that the wine plays as integral a part in the show as any of the equipment. The last time he played here it was stolen and this time’s no different. Other casualties include his Speech Development hat and his decency, as crotch hungry fans grope their way to end of the night while Pip crowd surfs via the sound desk (for a high five from the sound man) to the merch stand. Before all the thievery and fondling there was time wind things down with a rendition of ‘Astronaut’, played for the rowdy crowds only.
The ever poignant Pip is probably less hip-hop than ever now. Even with Dan Le Sac there wasn’t much of the suaveness that you’d associate with the genre, what little there was has now been jettisoned completely. This is urban poetry with music playing second fiddle. There are plenty of hip-hop acts to see but if you want an exuberant attack on contemporary culture where life and wine are grabbed by the neck then go see Scroobius Pip.
Photo by Alan Moore.