The Rambler :: blog

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Urban Classic: the Reception 

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Some of the Urban Classic aftermath:

Photos at 1Xtra: "It's the night everyone's been waiting for"

Bun-U: "Hey tonight we've made history, cuz we've made posh people say GET ME"

Neil Fisher in The Times: "one left feeling that the orchestra had been asked to travel so far from their world that the product they were offering was largely superfluous."

Robert Maycock in the Independent: "the biggest noise at the Empire was the squeal of institutions jumping into a fashionable bed."

Peter Aspden and Alistair Macaulay in the Financial Times: "mostly a case of thumping backbeats receiving an unsophisticated melodic accompaniment, to perfectly pleasant effect."

The show is now all up on 1xtra's Listen again, and will be until the weekend. After that it should be somewhere on Radio 3's pages.

The grime crowd are giving biggest props to Bruza - as by far the biggest name on the night, this is fair enough. He did sound the most comfortable MC too, although Tor wasn't far behind - here's hoping we hear a lot more from her.

I can't say the same for Pase and Purple though, who come over as the sanitised, sanctioned, product that Urban Classic always threatened to become.

Not surprisingly, the broadsheet critics (coming from a more 'musicianly' angle) are most impressed by Faith SFX. Concerns over 'what's the point of beatboxing' notwithstanding, it's good old-fashioned virtuosity that wins them over. Even a cynic like me has to admit that simply on the level of pure entertainment, it's pretty bloody impressive. And the Faith SFX bits of the show came closest to a truly grimey sound - but this only left me wondering what might have been achieved if a proper drum track had been laid down for both orchestra and MCs to work against.

This revealed the show's biggest weakness - everything that finally made it onto stage had been worked through an exclusively classical paradigm (and the dread 19th-century classical paradigm at that) that regards musicianship, virtuosity, live performance and a hierachical structure between composer, conductor and performers as the principal standards by which to judge music. An orchestra has to work very hard to break out of such conventions - and top marks to Bruza for trying to break those conventions in calling for the reload! Faith SFX and the four MCs were cast as concerto-esque soloists whose role was to confront the orchestra in only the narrow confines of a concertante format. Naturally, when the one individual with the most apparent virtuosity - Faith SFX - does his thing, the set up works best; he was also the most comfortable player in his role, with the four MCs sounding, on the whole, somewhat overwhelmed.

Faith SFX demonstrated that even if the night wasn't a complete success, at least there is mileage in beatbox with orchestra. However, this seems doubly perverse; next time this classical vs electronica/urban crossover is attempted, could someone please bring some sequencers with them?

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