tue 23/07/2024

Major Lazer/Toddla T, Shepherd's Bush Empire | reviews, news & interviews

Major Lazer/Toddla T, Shepherd's Bush Empire

Major Lazer/Toddla T, Shepherd's Bush Empire

Super-smashing double-headed rave mayhem

Major Lazer, prior to the departure of Switch (left... not the guy with the mic-bandolier)

It became clear, midway through support act Toddla T that this was going to be a bit special. With a view from the front of the first tier balcony, I could see the melee below and the two balconies above. The Shepherd’s Bush Empire is a gorgeous 109 year old theatre that’s been a music hall and BBC studio in its time but no-one was sitting down tonight, far from it.

Those on the upper tiers were leaning forward over the balconies, whooping and waving their arms, everyone everywhere seemed to be moving. I turned to my companion and ventured, “This is a bit like a rave.” Within a short time I was forced to revise this opinion; “Actually,” I admitted with a big grin, “This is a full-on rave.” And it really was.

Both acts deal in dance music that’s heavily indebted to dancehall reggae, and the crowd was truly mixed, black and white, as well as truly up for it from the start. I missed the beginning but apparently Toddla T was introduced on film by Jarvis Cocker, presumably as they both hail from Sheffield. The stage set-up was simple, T (AKA Tom Bell), clad in a red “TT” tee-shirt behind the decks, a big screen above him and two either side on which images were projected, mostly Mr Scruff-like cartoons, such as organs within the body, all smiling and partying. Guests ran on and off as cuts were played, many from Toddla T’s last album, Watch Me Dance, such as the raucous “Badman Flu”.

It all blurred into an extraordinary melange of drum & bass, dubstep, electro-house, ragga, and much more

MCs DRS and Serocee hyped the crowd but the real noise was reserved for the ladies, Nineties pop star Shola Ama, sporting a blonde flick, jammed a few of her own songs such as “Sweetest Taboo” and “You Might Need Somebody”, and the hyperactive, enjoyably lewd Lady Chann, clad in lacy white leggings caused the biggest roar thus far with her “Sticky Situation” which she began by turning her backside to us and bogling wildly. The sound was rough throughout but, somehow, it didn’t matter too much, as drum & bass, dub and tough kick-drums collided and the atmosphere gradually amped up. It was a shame that when the whole crew assembled to perform retro rave breakbeat epic “Take It Back", the sound was cut off, but their time presumably had run out.

It didn’t matter. Major Lazer arrived to a hysterical response, the atmosphere practically crackling with human electricity. Critics could rightly quibble that both acts essentially seemed to be playing pre-recorded music, DJIng, but they’d be missing the point. Like the rave it was, the bouncing, yelling, joyfully unhinged crowd response was what it was all about – and Major Lazer knew just how to press their buttons

DJ-producers Diplo and Switch, from New York and London, respectively, formed Major Lazer in 2009, a Jamaican-flavoured rave-up visually represented by a comic book zombie-fighting commando with lazers instead of arms. Their album Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do, stepped forward from the work the pair had done with MIA, and sassily combined beats with ragga flavour. Switch has now left, replaced by afro-haired Trinidad DJ-producer Jillionaire, but the crowd are unphased. Or rather, they’re very phased but only by their own wild desire to enjoy themselves.

Major Lazer appeared to the sound of the drums which Beyoncé nicked from them for her “Run The World (Girls)” but before they really kick off, Diplo, looking like one of Reservoir Dogs, insists his MC, Walshy Fire, go crowd surfing which he duly does. From there on, hell, I cannot even tell you what they played except the mighty single “Pon de Floor” and the encore of Toots & the Maytals’ “54-46 Was My Number” – it all blurred into an extraordinary melange of drum & bass, dubstep, electro-house, ragga, and much more, always changing gear at the perfect moment, and with two militaristic Security of the First World-esque mohawked female dancers sweating it out alongside.

This wasn’t a good night out. It was a very, very good night out

Nevertheless, this was no amorphous DJ “journey”, it was full of highlights, moments of frantic exhilaration - a song “for the ladies” that consisted of a rapturous red-lit stage invasion by women; the widely obeyed command for everybody in the place take off their tee-shirts, resulting in multitudes of drenched tops held aloft; the champagne spraying (sounds tacky but was great fun); the ticker-tape cannon; the beach balls of various sizes thrown into the audience and passed endlessly about; Diplo clambering again and again onto the decks to exhort us to greater exertions.

I admit I’m inclined to being swept off my feet by a good night out, if there’s a decent tail-wind and my system is suitably refreshed, but this wasn’t a good night out, it was a very, very good night out. The sight of the whole place going completely bananas to cutting edge extraordinary electronic music, lights flashing off perspiration-flecked faces and bodies of all colours leaping, waving, jumping… well, it was just brilliant. Rave on.

Watch Toddla T's "Take It Back" featuring Shola Ama

Major Lazer arrived to a hysterical response, the atmosphere practically crackling with human electricity


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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