Mobo and Mercury Prize winning Jazz/Hip-Hop virtuoso Soweto Kinch hosted LIVEBOX, an intimate ‘Club Jam’ session at the North London venue, BGAC.
‘Nu-jazz’ guru Soweto and his proficient backing band consisting of Silver Chet on Keys, Neil Charles on Electric and Double Bass and Big G on Drums, delivered an addictive and truly innovative night of entertainment packed with live Jazz and Hip-Hop, and not a deck in sight.
Also performing were: Jonzi D, Lyric L and un-billed guest, Kosyne at this freestyle show with a difference.
The night kicked off at around 8:15 and continued through to 11:30 with a short interval halfway through.
Funky, laid back beat on the intro,
Audience? Good to go
A warm embrace from the host in the place
Vibes flowing from the sax, keys, drums and the bass…
The first half of the night was a well-staged affair; each act was introduced in turn and stepped up to show their vocal wares;
Soweto wore many hats, alternating between playing spurts of solo Sax and rapping with his clear concise flow, introducing and backing each guest alternately on Sax and Microphone. He was more than competent in this, keeping it fresh and interactive, conversing with the audience all night long.
Jonzi D, MC and Dancer was constantly poppin’ and lockin’ his body while performing his rhymes. Multi-talented, humble and entertaining, he is truly on top of his game and clearly addicted to his I-phone, his humorous approach was infectious; you couldn’t help but smile and sway with the upbeat energy of this cool-ass ‘Muthafella’ (his term, not mine!)
Lyric L arrived on the stage with a purpose, stepping into the fore and taking to rhyme like a duck to water, she smoothly conducted the band during her segments, prompting the musicians by singing the bass line and giving rhythmic direction to the drummer with exceptional articulation. This human “Lyrical” percussionist truly knows her craft, and something special happens when she takes the mic.
Her on-the-spot rhyming skills and vocal agility combined with her sultry melodic singing voice, confidence and honesty means that she owns it, and she knows it – and she certainly is entitled to.
The freestyle battle was the theme of the show’s second half, where MC’s in the audience were invited to face off with the headline acts. Live props were proffered by and welcomed from the audience and random word suggestions were written on a board to truly test the rappers’ skills in improvisation and each further round introduced new topics. A point scheme was incorporated and a winner was announced at the end. Although this segment was ‘hit and miss’ the idea was brave. Top marks go to the MC’s for ingenuity, all of whom performed well and there is no doubt that they are rhyming aficionado’s, in addition to this Soweto’s ability to showcase the positive aspects of hip-hop without the negative ‘flossing’ and ‘celebration’ of violence was truly refreshing and a glimmer of hope for hip-hop’s future.
The evening flew by smoothly, the bands’ musicianship was impressive and infectious – so much so that I had to constantly remind myself that I was there to review the show and not get up to jam or throw shapes on the dance floor.
The fact that there were no decks or backing tracks was the key element that made this show standout. The band, able to switch the vibe and flow on cue and at a moments notice provided the perfect base and backdrop for the layers of intermittent live Sax and Vocals on top, giving the headline act the ability to do what he does best – blow!
And Mr Kinch really knows how to, both on the sax and rapping on the mic, he is a master of his art, able to include the audience in the show, with his clever interweaving of conversation with the crowd (of all ages) into the performance itself, including them in his head snapping resounding choruses filled with call and answer interplay.
The sole disappointment of the evening was the sound system, unsuitable for the vast capabilities of the vocal-smith’s and the great band. Aside from this, the three MC’s dynamics were well balanced; each knew their art and stamped their mark on a truly enjoyable night.
There is no doubt that a great night was had by all in attendance, so if you want a refreshing night out filled with excellent live music, impromptu lyrical wordplay, old school hip-hop values meshed with a ‘Nu-Jazz’ outlook, do yourself a favour and check ‘Livebox’ out.