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Dizzee Rascal @ BBC Electric Proms


United Kingdom United Kingdom | 23 October 2009

In their fourth year, it promises an exciting show for attendees as artists are challenged to deliver fresh and new material or arrangements of their music, to adhere to the festival’s ethos that promises to ‘create new moments in music’. Dizzee Rascal, step up to the plate…

In the promotional blurb for the gig, Dizzee promises an ‘artistic’ set. Thankfully, the blurb isn't wrong. Backed by a live band with a horns section, backing vocalists, and the Heritage Orchestra, Mr Rascal delivers a surprising mixture of rock, ska, soul, classical strings, country, Spanish guitar, drum n bass and metal.  It looks great too, with a modern light show and staging that sees the orchestra above the band and begins with the strings hidden in darkness.

The variety of content is entertaining and pleasantly surprising. Perhaps due to nerves - this is his first fully live show - Dizzee is not as chatty between songs as he is during them. His lack of audience participation makes the show more TV friendly and less like a live gig for all in attendance. This takes the shine from what could have been a life-changing show. That aside, it is still a show stopping performance, which undoubtedly flaunts this grime artist/rapper’s musical talents beyond a straight set with a CD backing audio track.

At the end of his entrance song ‘Jus' A Rascal’ the audience cheer and scream when they hear the Jeremy Paxman audio clip “Dizzee for Prime Minister.” This sets the precedent for the night.  Memorably, ‘Can’t Tek No More’ sees Brinsley Forde from Aswad collaborating with Dizzee plus a brass section in a ska themed performance. Then ‘Jezebel’ reveals the Heritage Orchestra for the first overt orchestral highlight.

There are moments of surrealism like the black T-shirts with green pictures of Dizzee’s face, wobbling around like jellied Dizzee’s on the large backing vocalists’ chests while they are dancing to ‘Dirtee Cash’.  ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit/Stand up Tall’ turns the whole audience into a giant mosh pit and gives the Roundhouse a bouncy castle feeling for one of the rock songs.  ‘Bonkers’ is also performed in a rock style, with a double bass, guitars, percussion and drums and it certainly lives up to its’ name with the audience are going totally bonkers.  ‘Holiday’ with a Spanish guitar style and a full band, has a very balearic feel to it.  ‘Dream’ - with the sample of ‘Happy Talk’ that Dizzee raps over - an entertaining and uplifting version of this song, with strings, flute, backing vocals and drums accompaniment feels like going back to the days of Swap Shop.

Arguably, the biggest cheer happens at the false start for ‘Imagine’ - “Ah fuck.  Start again.  Stop, stop, stop,” says Dizzee, to a massive audience scream, “I know when it’s crap and I’ve been trying not to swear all day.” The second attempt was worth re-starting for, and it ensures that the audience are fully involved and consequently it brings the house down. This sets the precedent for the energetic encore of ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’ which leaves the audience dancing, and hungry for more Dizzee antics. It clearly won over people who were not from Dizzee’s usual demographic, as well as the grime fans, all chatting about their highlights during the football terrace style scrum to leave.

For more on the BBC Electric Proms see: www.bbc.co.uk/electricproms 

By Lorraine Hardman.

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