Pa Salieu closed the 2021 Youth Music Awards
Right up until five minutes before his anticipated set time the excited, nervous talk continued, the queue for the toilet was alive with conspiratorial riffs on the theme: “Is he coming?” and “will it really be him?” or “did you see the video of his set in Paris the other night?” It’s difficult to remember a Hip Hop gig that’s been as hotly anticipated and debated as MF Doom at A Taste of Sonar for a long while, at least among a certain demographic.
Judging by the toilet queues that demographic was largely slightly nerdy twenty-somethings, white and male. That’s more anthropological observation rather than a criticism per se, and this reviewer isn’t excluding himself but it did call to mind one of the great man’s lyrics: “Its all part of my mental techniques, available to freaks and pencil neck geeks”.
The main space looked amazing, its Victorian splendour complemented by some very well realised visuals, full marks to Sonar for that. Once the Lex DJs had finished their mix of understated beats and pieces the Roundhouse was pretty much ready to blow. No one lit the fuse though, instead they put on a ropey old CD and left us to wait, and wait.
About an hour later though the wait was over and a couple of guys rushed the stage alongside some unmistakable strains of accordion, the crowd went wild, and then they left. All very confusing, but we didn’t have to wait long until it all started up again. It became clear the first guy had been some kind of ‘doomposter’ but here on stage we had the real deal complete with mask, swagger and outrageous potbelly.
Obsessive fans could debate the tracklist for weeks, and probably will but his set was pretty much all-killer, pulling together diverse strands of the best of his extensive catalogue. You could have argued for more ‘Operation Doomsday’ and less of the new stuff but tracks like Gazillion-Ear and Ballskin – off last year’s Lex release did the job. The highlight was a personal favourite, the Sweet Love sampling Hoe Cakes complete with a thousand elated cries of Supa for the hook. The sound left a little to be desired, with Doom’s already lazy flow lost in a sea of bass but he more than made up for it with pure charm and, well, just by being there.
He had clearly noticed the aforementioned audience demographic but complaints about “motherf**kin’ white people” early on gave way to good humoured waving of his UK passport and a tongue in cheek “I’m home!” (Doom is officially a Brit). The rest of the night was well-programmed featuring DJ slots from Herbert, Roska and some nice new faces in the Red Bull room but the night belonged to Doom. Was it the best Hip-hop show I’ve seen? Honestly, no, but years of obsession and months of speculation finally paid off, I’ll never forget the night I met Doom.
Why not read our review of Carl Craig @ The Royal Festival Hall? Another blinding effort from the Red Bull Music Academy.
Photo by Danny Wood.