Thursday, April 27, 2006

Jamie Lidell will drop your jaw

I have seen a lot of shows in my time, of every genre and capacity. From the New York philharmonic to East Oakland gangsta rappers. There have been some really memorable ones, and some easily forgettable ones. The ones that never stick out though, the ones that always fade away as the drugs wear off, are the electronic acts.

Now I don’t mean when I see a DJ, because I have seen a billion DJ’s and I will see a billion more and some were phenomenal and some were horrific but mostly, usually, they are just meh. It is very rare that a DJ makes a serious difference to the crowd they are playing for, what usually sets one DJ apart from the next is the actual party they play at. The crowd, the venue, the drugs. It’s a combination of things. Only the very special DJ can make him or herself stand out, and without the proper environment to encourage them, even they have trouble shining. No, I’m not talking about DJ’s. DJ's are a different type of performance. No, I’m talking about actual Electronic acts.

Last night I saw Jamie Lidell and I will go on record as saying that he is the singular best electronic artist I have ever seen live. In fact, I will go so far as to say that his shows are in the top 10 of all shows I have ever seen.

This includes Run DMC at a small club in 1996, where the entire place almost crumbled under the weight of a bouncing crowds sheer enthusiasm. Or PJ Harvey at the Warfield during her ‘Is this desire’ tour, where I stood silent still and felt my heartbreak so many times I swore I would never see her again for fear I would never get over her [she still haunts me]. Or A Tribe Called Quest/De La Soul in 1993, where the crowd got so excited a riot stopped the show and when the house lights went on and a voice bellowed from the overhead SHOWS OVER, we all licked blood from our teeth and sighed with relief because it could get no better than that anyway. Yes, Jamie Lidell is up there with the great shows of my lifetime.

His usual set involves some songs from his album [Multiply, which is a great record, but really doesn’t do his live show any justice], and then just sort of jamming with his hardware. He has a great voice, soulful and genuine, and an almost criminal sense of rhythm. Last night it seemed he broke up his set to alternate between one song from his latest record and then a somewhat improvised jam with his many bleep bloop boxes and a laptop. I wont describe the performance of his album cuts, because it’s the bleep bloop jammy jams that left my jaw dropped.

He has a sampler up on stage with a mic hooked into it. That is only one of the many boxes he uses, but it’s the pillar of all his joints. He beat boxes a rhythm into the sampler then loops it. He’s dancing and smiling and sometimes his eyes are closed and sometimes he’s staring right at you. Then he’ll hum or sing a little over the loop, then he'll loop that and start tweaking it with some effects. He even grunts the bass lines and spits the funk claps. It’s all built up into a fine rhythm and from there he takes it wherever he wants. And the crowd, in turn, has to go with him. It’s an exciting journey to say the least.

At one point he took this simple soul groove and started feeding it into a synthesizer, crunching up all the rhythms into a cacophony of alien sounds, then he let it all fall into each other and the beats were fighting and his voice was fighting and the air was choking with such foul dissonance I didn’t know if I could take it anymore. But right when I thought it could be too much he twisted it all back and then dropped what it had become, techno. It was fucking brutal how amazing it was. I couldn’t help but smile.

A friend of mine wanted to leave but as we agreed, we just had to see what would happen next. Luckily we did as he invited half the crowd on stage and sampled their voices, building another stunning tune before the nights end.

Shit, I’ve put a time limit on my post, I wont write for more than 20 minutes or so [I stole the idea from Tony], so I have to cut this short. Ill just say that you, whoever you are, should see Mr. Lidell next time he is in your city.


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