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Plan B live at The Village, Dublin
Hip-hop does not usually mesh well with singer-songwriter earnestness, yet the UK rapper (real name Ben Drew) somehow manages to strike the right balance.
Kilian Murphy, 09 Feb 2007
Plan B’s shtick is unedifying in theory, yet surprisingly enjoyable in practice; a fact underlined by this consistently engaging night’s entertainment. Hip-hop does not usually mesh well with singer-songwriter earnestness, yet the UK rapper (real name Ben Drew) somehow manages to strike the right balance. Too often, this sort of thing degenerates into a cosy-campfire, MOR take on hip-hop (House Of Pain MC Everlast’s ill-advised re-invention as an acoustic troubadour being the most pertinent example) but Drew seems to be in thrall to the best elements of both genres; heart-on-your-sleeve honesty merged with sick, dark humour and a steely rhythmic edge.
The concert’s opening volley is the most impressive I’ve experienced for some time. Drew’s band – bass, drums and decks – emerge before him, the sampled sounds of a distant thunderstorm setting a mood of gothic gloom and foreboding that rarely lets up throughout the evening. We hear Plan B before we see him, as his opening rap begins while he is out of the audience’s view. He emerges fully a little later; black-hooded, intense and vitriolic.
The two tracks following the introduction are similarly impressive. ‘Where Ya From?’ is a monumental wall of angst and fury, a slow-burning sonic exorcism of boredom and frustration. Plan B pulls out his acoustic guitar for the first time on ‘Dead And Buried’; a thrillingly bleak three-part narrative, on which he showcases a surprisingly-angelic singing voice, and confirms his knack for concise, punchy storytelling.
This sort of momentum is impossible to sustain, but while Plan B never quite attains the same heights, he is rarely less than excellent. ‘Missing Links’ expertly samples Radiohead’s ‘Pyramid Song’, preserving the original’s moody magnificence, while re-casting it in a thrillingly different fashion. ‘No More Eatin’’ builds superbly, climaxing in a haze of frenetic, metallic guitar noise.
The gig is sparsely attended, but this lends the evening a peculiar (and enjoyable) air of warm intimacy; a feeling that is at odds with Plan B’s unrelentingly bleak world view, certainly, but perhaps therein lies his appeal – that rare ability to turn dark, unpleasant subject matter into something grimly beautiful.