Immortal Technique Live Review (The Globe, Cardiff. 18/6/13)

So, first of all, this is going to be more of a ‘report’ than an actual review. Why? Because I literally turned up to this gig without listening to any Immortal Technique albums, none but one song that I was familiar with and that it was my first pure live hip-hop experience (Death Grips felt a whole lot more like being in an Every Time I Die gig). If you’re asking “Why the hell did you turn up then?!”, my younger brother is a big Immortal Technique fan and while the opportunity was there, I thought what better way to take him to his first live performance than to see one of his favourite artists.

So while you’re reading this, remember: I was not an Immortal Technique fan walking into the venue.

For the night, Technique had two supports and an opening DJ set by DJ Static, who basically worked the instrumentals and turntables for the whole night for the two supports and Immortal. The first MC was Hasan Salaam – again, someone who I had never listened to, and this time never heard of – and he blew it away. While in reality he was playing in Cardiff, you could have sworn he was in thee most prestigious venue in London. In fact, that’s the case for the whole night, including Immortal. Hasan Salaam is all over the stage: jumping, hopping, slapping and shaking hands at the front of the stage, and while inbetween songs he gave serious messages, he joked about too (joking with a lady who shouted at him “take it all off sexy face”). On the mic, he was fast and furious, with a lot of references to the likes of Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Akon (something about “throwing you off the stage like an Akon fan”, brilliant!). The guy was clearly having a ton of fun up on the stage, but the highlight may have been DJ Static coming out from behind the tables to do the running man towards the end of the set.

Next up was Akir, who literally just walked on stage as soon as Salaam’s set was done – something that was a great thing about the gig: no gap between artists, no equipment to take off/set up; just one artist on straight after the other. However, while Akir was fun as well, it didn’t have the same spontaneous feel that Salaam had. Maybe it was just me being a little impatient for Immortal by that point, but that’s how it felt. Salaam stayed on during Akir’s set and the two prowled the stage, hyping the crowd up nicely and interacting with it.

Finally though, it was time for Immortal Technique, who walked on to a pretty insane roar of cheers that must have gone on for a good 30-40 seconds, and he just grinned it all in. Instantly, you like the guy, he genuinely looks humbled to be there. I knew before walking in that he’s extremely popular despite his strong independent attitude and sometimes controversial social/political raps. Does he have to be in Cardiff tonight? No, most likely not. But he’s there and as soon as you see his reaction to the crowd welcoming him, you understand that he does it for the fans. This is coming from a guy who was a little sceptical walking in a few hours earlier. For Technique’s set, both Akir and Salaam stay on, pretty much as backing vocals and hypemen.

He proceeded to go through perhaps a 90-minute set, with a good deal of talking inbetween, usually something that’s annoying when it goes on for too long, but Immortal is a political activist and it makes sense that he connects to the crowd the meaning of his music. Sometimes the speeches are heavy, sometimes they are jokey (my favourite being his hatred of copyright). At moments, it does become frustrating that certain members of the audience constantly yell and interrupt him, clearly not listening to him, but the majority listen keenly. Quite a few times, while people at the front had their mobiles and cameras filming him, he’d grab them and film himself for a few moments on stage – a nice touch and a memory giver.

There were two really interesting moments too.

The first was a fight that broke out between two female members of the audience; to which Immortal immediately stops mid-song and tells everyone to raise their middle-finger to the fight and shout “Don’t fuck up the show!”, which everyone was more than happy to. While security dealt with the problem and took the two girls out, Technique went on a tangent about how is it possible to start a revolution if you can’t stand by each other (along those lines) and jumps down into the area the fight was in, staring down any tempers that were still flared. A great way of dealing with the situation.

Then there was a moment where all three of the MCs sprayed the audience with water from their bottles (which must’ve been great in that heat), but quickly a pint of water or beer was thrown onto the stage and soaked the DJ stand, Static obviously a little annoyed. However, they all carried on without a hitch and Technique only commented and warned the audience about it once the song ended, obviously water + electricity = bad. One member of the audience boos and Technique’s face turns a storm, soon followed by the likes of “do you understand how fucking technology works?” and “how about you run a bath when you get home and throw a toaster in it”. One member of the audience clearly accounts himself for the booing (at this point, I think he was booing whoever threw the pint onto the stage) and Technique quickly apologises and tells the guy he loves him, even moving to the side of the stage to shake his hand.

The end of the gig was set to be 10.30pm, but Immortal went over, aware and stating “I don’t give a fuck”. One of the last songs (and the only one I recognised) being Dance With The Devil, perhaps his most well-known track for it’s graphic and horrifying detail of a rape. In a live setting, this song really hits home, especially when all three MCs play a sorta scene with the lyrics, Technique using a towel for emphasis of the victim. It’s hard to even bob your head at this point, and I feel like he’s done what he set out to do, which is to bring the point to an extreme and choking closeness to home, that it could happen to anyone.

In the end, I walked in a sceptic and walked out really liking Technique, if not for his music then definitely for his attitude. It’s great knowing that someone like him is trying his best to change things (a portion of the tour’s proceeds were to go to the building of a school in Africa, as far as I could tell) and to open eyes. While I didn’t agree with every single thing he said (I did agree with a lot), I admired his energy and belief. He was happy to be there and I was too.

He asked the audience if there was anyone at the performance who lived in Wales but not in Cardiff, getting a good number of yells, which he said he would keep in mind. I’d be more than happy to go to another gig of his.

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