Saturday, 20 June 2009

My concert experience: Roots Manuva

The second day of Park Live Fest in Sofia was definitely the lowest point in the whole program. First of all the line-up was less than intriguing. Another thing was that the audience was definitely less than for Tricky, the previous day. The headliner was the British-Jamaican rapper Roots Manuva, who mixes hip-hop with electronica, reggae, dub and even gospel. I admit that just a couple of weeks ago I knew him only by his moniker, but spent enough time getting to know his style. The mere fact that he mentions that many various styles and extensively concentrates on social issues made me attend his gig, drawn by the charm of a rapper who has something to say for real.

I guess, I should start from the very start which was given by the Gypsy orchestra Karandila, which as I was told had to play for over two hours. Don't worry about the poor guys, they are used to the prolonged performances and I assure you that Karandila could have been on stage all night long and beyond. The orchestra was followed by DJ Lord from Public Enemy, who had a few surprises on his turntable. His set was dominated by pop and rock tracks, which was kind of surprising as we expected him to bury us deep in the sands of black music. He made the audience boogie-woogie and still he showed more passion than we did...what a pity. DJ Lord and Karandila tried out to improvise together, which didn't end up as well as expected. Anyways, the last performance before Roots Manuva was of the band Ruth & Unlimited. In one word: L A M E! Their whole performance was absolutely annoying and nerve-racking. They sounded if they played together for the very first time: unorganized and distorted.

After being tortured to the maximum with Ruth's constant pleads to come closer to the scene and dance to the rhythm, and waiting some more twenty minutes for the main act to begin, finally Roots Manuva made his appearance. He was backed up by two DJs and a side singer, whose name I didn't get to hear (understand to be more precise). Honestly I felt wrong while watching Roots, because it turned out that the majority of the people there actually listened to him and they did know the songs. Still, this didn't ruin my fun and I got my groove on.

Due to problems with the police (I never got to find out exactly what) the program had to be rescheduled and pulled back with almost two hours, which after all ended up in no more than an hour suspension. It was announced that Roots will appear on stage at 21:00, which caused havoc among his fans as many of them expected him no sooner than 22:00 and they were rushed into the venue, although he didn't appear on stage earlier than 21:30. I am saying all of this, because the organizers had to push the rapper to shorten his performance and drop a few songs, which brought addition tension to the atmosphere, which was going down the spiral after the dubious warm-up performance by Bulgarian band Ruth & Unlimited. The rescheduling almost ruined Roots Manuva performance, but the management obviously managed to win extra 45 minutes.

Rodney Smith, Manuva's real name, played it safe and entirely backed his gig on his most prominent stuff, which was eagerly and passionately appreciated by hip-hop fans. Even I managed to distinguish at least a few of his songs, although they were slightly rendered. Talking of rearranged versions I should say that not the changes made it difficult for me to recognize them, but the horrible sound system the organizers had provided. The bass was so heavy that for most of the concert I couldn't hear any proper singing and at certain moments there was nothing but blasts and distortions. Among the performed songs were "Bashment Boogie", "Witness (1 Hope)", "Sinny Sin Sins and, "Dub Styles", at least those I managed to distinguish.

His back-up had parts on all of the songs, even those which on the albums were solo performed and he was more passionate than Manuva himself. There was chemistry between them and they proved to be a good combo, although we didn't really care about anyone else but Roots. At 22:00 they announced that the gig was over as they were forced to put an end to it. Umm, yeah, but we did already know its a hoax and nobody bought it. The more the concert neared its end the more annoyed I was feeling. It felt like forever until the last song. I don't know why, but the second part of the performance was blunt and tedious with an uncertain pace and lame improvisations. I have never been happier to hear "Thank you and goodbye". I couldn't stop clapping my hands as I was doing it to make sure this was the very end of Day 2. Indeed, it was.

The videos are courtesy of YouTube user superchiko