If recent reports are to be believed the crowd in Vicar Street tonight can expect to wait somewhere in the region of 9159 hours between Simi Crowns‘ tour-de-force opening act and the arrival of Yasiin Bey. Thankfully, such reports are inaccurate and this goes for their less than flattering descriptions of Bey’s (the artist formerly known as Mos Def) performances too. On time, on point and on fire, the former Black Star is all business tonight and literally has the crowd falling into line.
Not long after Bey shuffles on stage, fedora hat atop a towel atop his shorn head, throwing rose petals around the stage, does one over-zealous fan decide he might as well join him. Queue scuffles from assorted security guards and venue staff before Bey calls for his would-be accomplice to be brought back on stage. Bearing resemblance to that infamous moment when James Brown literally suppressed a riot by castigating stage invaders in Boston, Bey spends about three minutes calmly appealing to the guy’s better judgment before gently asking “why do you think that your enjoyment is more important than everybody else’s?” The poor lad poses, tries to hug Bey, attempts to appear in any way relaxed but ultimately has the expression of a kid who has been called in front of the classroom to explain skidmarks on his P.E. gear. He means no harm, and receives none – but this is a lesson in humility over hubris from the most relaxed man in the room.
Anyway, from here on in Mos Def has the crowd firmly on side and the show is formidable. Largely performing tracks from his debut album, the seminal Black on Both Sides, the two-man DJ team are submerging the venue in heavy bass as Mos delivers his trademark laid-back rhymes. His effortless delivery, at times jolted into more fast-paced and expressive rapping than some would expect, sounds crystal clear and heartfelt. Although he doesn’t perform Black on Both Sides in its entirety, as billed, he does cover more of his back catalogue than expected giving him a chance to skip between delivery styles when necessary. ‘Ms. Fat Booty’, ‘Got’, ‘Umi Says’ and ‘Speed Law’ are all present, as are ‘Casa Bey’, ‘The Undeniable’ and ‘Travellin’ Man’ from his later albums. There are moments when his medleys are perfectly judged but there are also a few occasions when his better known hits, and let’s face it – we want to hear the hits – are wedged too snugly into the drift to really resonate. As the show is nearing its end, with Yasiin Bey spinning on the spot, the crowd are visibly hoping for more. House lights on, equipment in varying stages of deconstruction, nobody apart from maybe poor Darryl The Stage Invader will leave tonight’s performance feeling anything but love for Yasiin Dante Mos Def Terrell Smith Bey.
Yasiin Bey / Mos Def photographed for State by Mark McGuinness.