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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
Royal Festival Hall, London - Tuesday March 15th 2005 - by Nick Morgan
Ok ok Serge, I know it’s late, but like I told you, I very nearly didn’t even get to the gig. After all, I’d had a week in Paris on some sort of marketing thing, enduring some of the worst food I’d ever eaten in my life (Serge said he thought an Englishman, Irishman, Scotsman and Welshman must have got into the kitchen, but I have my doubts) (1). And then back to blighty for a quick hour or two at Whisky Live (more than any normal man can handle) followed by a very Big weekend and a great night at Nick Lowe on the Monday. Well, the photographer was keen (although as it turned out the excessive security prevented any reasonable access for shooting purposes) as was my daughter (no – she was positively twitching with excitement). But me – well I wondered if I really wanted to be there.   DIZZEE RASCAL
As it turned out I wasn’t alone. First up on this special night at the South Bank Centre’s Africa Remix Festival was Nigerian drumming legend Tony Allen, the right hand of Fela Kuti, and often acknowledged as the co-founder (with Kuti) of Afrobeat. Boy – he was almost as unhappy as me. “I just want to say, I don’t want to say nothing, I am just here for the Dizzee”. Playing second fiddle to a teenage East End prodigy was clearly not his bag, and his painful indifference to the gig was only compounded by his most pedestrian band, who had clearly undergone a rhythm bypass and a funkechtomy. Add to this two “singers” whose booty-shaking was a tribute to the (just withdrawn from the market) Rowntree’s jelly-cube (and maybe as appetising too) and you should begin to see just how bad it was. Sort of in-between early Santana and the Crusaders, with barely a dash of Africa, and at several RPMs less than it deserved. So for one I wasn’t quite as surprised as Allen’s band when he abruptly left the stage as they prepared for their final number; “Now I hand you over to the Dizzeeee”.
DIZZEE RASCAL   Dizzee Rascal rocking the Royal Festival Hall (yes Serge, the Royal Box was devoid of teenagers and soon-to-be weds) – not an immediate match made in heaven. Dizzee with an awesome DJ deckmeister (“how did he make all that noise?” I asked my daughter, still half deaf, in the homeward bound hooptie) and a fellow MC whose repetitive hand gestures suggested he spent the whole night in fear of loosing his testicles through the crotch of his baggy denims. A Dizzee who, despite his various brushes with rival MCs from the grime (don’t ask me, but apparently a very high velocity London take on Garage and Hip Hop) posse, and the boys in blue, seems more likely to die by suffocation at the hands of the chattering white middle classes than from a drive-by shooting.
Have no doubts, these clever clogs are grasping at DR as the acceptable face of young black music in the UK, a Mercury Prize winning alternative to misogynistic US rappers and their over-aggressive crews. And they are all out in force - beards, sandals, Guardians and all - at the RFH safe in a comfort zone never afforded by the Brixton Academy.
And why all the fuss? Well once you got over the jarring and largely alienating high speed rhythms (too many RPMs !) and almost industrial bass lines and samples (although I have to say the former did send a thrilling vibration through my thickly textured corduroy trousers) and caught up with the Dizziness himself (“Don’t ask me to sing slower, just listen faster”) what you got was a surprisingly intelligent and fiercely moralistic young man, singing with his heart on his sleeve, a plaintive voice for the young inner-city dispossessed. Actually I’m not sure that singing is the right word, but his powerfully delivered lyrics could have been written by his mum, though I suspect she might have used fewer “fucks”. Witty, good-humoured, and at the end of it all hugely optimistic I have to say that the final result was almost life-affirming (I last saw this word used in the Guardian of all places, in a review of a Chas and Dave gig! Surely it’s better placed here?).  
Corduroy trousersCorduroy trousers
What were the songs? How should I know? But a bit of research and listening afterwards showed that he played almost all of the new Showtime and The Boy in da Corner. You can make up the rest for yourselves. Oh yes – and I should have mentioned Dizzee’s fiercely expressed pride in his home city, which came through in his interplay with the audience (although we remain disappointed that he didn’t give it out to the Chiswick Crew) and his songs. Now the boy had better watch out, because if he’s not careful Ken Livingstone will co-opt him onto London’s Olympic bid (Ken, you read it here first mate), and then you Serge, and your Paris, just won’t stand a chance. - Nick Morgan

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