If you want to make beautiful music, you must play the black and the white notes together. Richard Nixon.
You might not appreciate a certain genre of music, but sometimes you have to admit that there is a talent involved in it. It surprises me that some people can adore Shakespeare but detest Eminem – they choose to take their words and weave them into our psyches in a very different way, but ultimately what ties them together is that they are both masters of language; they choose words in a jigsaw of ways and cleverly slot them together to give a whole new meaning. You might read this and shake your head (I’m picturing my granddads face with me likening rapper to the Baird) but both are poets, in their own time and standing.
My knowledge of current music is pretty minimal; anything that I like has either been overplayed on the work radio or forced on me by my little sister who is sick of hearing power ballads and eighties medleys, so when I got tickets to the Jay Z and Kanye West Watch the Throne Tour, I didn’t actually know there was a new album out (called Watch the Throne; handy).
I stand corrected.
I actually really like rap music, but I tend to find that I’m late to the party. By the time I turn up with my bottle of wine and joke hat it’s the next morning and all the revellers are passed out in the corner. My life is pretty much like being in a restaurant on holiday; you sit down and end up listening to ABBA’s newest tunes –modern to the Portuguese guy who just bought the CD, but decidedly last century to the rest of the world. Adrian at my old office used to call me Nanna, and he is pretty much bang on the money.
So I half heartedly listened to the new Jay Z album before I went, after being packed off with it on my iPod and instructed to find out the meaning of the phrase “that shit cray”, but had to admit that I got distracted by the earlier stuff that I could sing along to, and was slightly disinterested.
I could say all the usual stuff that people say about gigs and concerts – the lighting was awesome, the special effects were unreal, the atmosphere was electric – but there were two things that really stood out for me. The first was a short video played towards the end of the show, a mix of news clips of events through history like the Ku Klux Klan, the detonation of the H bomb and some war clips, all played to the soundtrack of Bing Crosby’s Wonderful World. It was touching in a really unexpected way and made me think about the attitude towards race and sex in music and how it is essentially a microcosm for the rest of society. The message to me was that it really isn’t a wonderful world, and the capacity of negativity that humans can have towards one another is unreal.
The second was how understatedly cool Jay Z is. Kanye West bounced around the stage like a child who has eaten too many blue m&ms; sweat dripped down his face and he moved like he was on fast forward for the whole show. Jay Z was like his polar opposite – he exuded this level of cool, his voice barely raised and he basked in an elegance that I never thought I would witness. He hardly broke a sweat through the ninety minute set, and he just seemed calm and aware of the crowd that he had commanded.
My verdict? It was the best show I have been to this year, outweighing both Snow Patrol and New Kids on the Backstreet Block (hahah!). I don’t think I have ever sat so quietly and taken something in in my whole life!