Shabazz Palaces live in Amsterdam

Shabazz Palaces, Dokzaal, Amsterdam, 20.10.2014

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Let’s start from the venue. After bankrupcy of original location (MC Theater) the location was moved to Dokzaal. Dokzaal is a small, two floor club located in an old tenement house. Part of the ground floor was demolished and that’s why it looks a little bit like theatre with stage in the basement. The stage is a big word here, because it’s just a piece of floor. No barriers, no distance between artists and audience – great. The concert was a part of Converse Red Light Session, so drinks were for free. Exactly, free.

The night was opened by DJ-s (Eaglemen), who played very varied music, very skillfully. Then Amsterdam-based support band called Änimal appeared on the stage. It’s a very young, male trio(keyboards, synthesizer-bass, drums) with female vocal. They played very slow, experimental electronic indie, played well, but it will be hard for them to become something more than support because their music doesn’t bring much new. The choice of sounds by keyboards man seemed sometimes inappropriate. Vocal exactly the same as the whole band – does not stand out. Somehow morelively ending gives hope.

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After short technical break the stage was taken by Shabazz Palaces. I don’t really remember exact order of songs. I preferred to focus on concert, so it is not another song-by-song-review. It was worth focusing. Shabazz Palaces is a hip-hop duo from Seattle, their albums have been released in legendary Sub Pop. „Lese Majesty” – album released in July is probably the best hip-hop release this year. Nevertheless the duo still remains not popular.

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Both artists entered the stage wearing vests reminiscent of Saharian Africa and dark sunglasses. From the first minute you could feel that this band has a sense of humour. The division of work was more or less equal. Palaceer Lazaro is responsible for lead rap and some electronic pads (usually the main beat track), multiinstrumentalist Tendai „Baba” Maraire is responsible for additional vocals, acoustic percussion instruments (impressive range of African instruments that I haven’t known before) and also some electronic pads. The duo sounds great together which is not a surprise but deftness in playing experimental music has to be praised. They are masters with their instruments – no mistakes and the task was really complicated, they gave their all from the first to the last minute, almost no breaks, crazy journey through varied sounds. Maraire with his additional vocals showed excellent feeling, it’s not too much to say that he has one of the best feelings in the industry.
What about the audience? Concert was for free and it had results: maybe four people were devoted Shabazz fans singing along, one fourth listened to Shabazz, and one third heard something about Shabazz. The rest didn’t have any idea what Shabazz is, for some of them the concert was probably the biggest music discovery for years but for some it was just not a right place to hang out on Monday’s evening. There was a huge group of people bouncing in the front of the stage, there were some people standing moveless but listening, there were photographers (not as much disturbing as usual), finally there were super annoying folks giggling in the back – why don’t you go upstairs?! Nevertheless finally the band got respect of vast majority of the audience.
The duo played a lot of tracks from „Lese Majesty”, the biggest applause got „#CAKE” with its deep beat. I must say I waited for this song and it was what I expected – huge. The whole gig lasted for 60 minutes + two-songs-encore, not a long concert, but deifinitely intensive one. My expectations were not always met – the duo resigned from hipnotism, it was replaced by sense of humour. In my opinion it was not really a fair exchange. The concert showed three things: duo is a perfect idea for hip-hop as it allows songs to be more complicated and more powerful at the same time; mastery in instruments is key also for hip-hop; mixing acoustic and electronic sounds is a trend in music which seems the most innovative and effective nowadays. All in all the concert was very good, delivered some good vibrations. It was not astonishing, not one of the best ones I have attended, but still denifitely worth of going to Amsterdam and getting completely wet on a way from club to railway station. Writing this review I still hear the phrase „Eating cake” which stuck in my mind.

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