Ghostpoet, Electrowerkz, London
Thursday 24 February 2011
Shortly after crowds pour into this intimate venue, it becomes apparent that Ghostpoet isn't going to serve up what anyone familiar with his new album Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam might expect. Obaro Ejimiwe, as his mother knows him, is accompanied tonight by a drummer and a guitarist.
Unlike the album's Roots Manuva-esque eclectic electronica, opener "Life's Tough" builds tonight with pounding live percussion. The swamp-like darkness of "Garden Path" meanwhile gets over-illuminated by the band's rather too artful embellisments.
But here's the problem: this poltergeist poet's soft mumbling is captivating-to-hypnosis-point when slurred over sparse electronica. But Ejimiwe's erudite musings simply cannot be understood over the clamour of the band. Listening to what sounds like the ramblings of a madman accompanied by funky but unruly rhythms, it all feels rather like an impromptu musical together. Perhaps this is the melancholy jam referred to in the album title?
Hand gestures of the Mariah Carey note-trailing variety aside, proceedings take a turn for the better with "Survive It". Ejimiwe begins to articulate in a manner comprehensible to the human ear, the band hit their stride and the crowd expresses their gratitude by joyfully dancing along with the guitar crescendos. While the live band stunts the impact of the lullaby-inducing drawl on the mellow tracks, they're a suitable addition to these later, more boisterous, tracks.
The most powerful moment comes during "Finished I Ain't" however, when Ejimiwe pierces the band's wall of sound. Barely accompanied, he delivers a knock-your-socks-off lyrical address to a rapturous response from the audience. It's a telling glimpse of a performer who, while bravly pushing his genre's boundaries, gains nothing from hiding behind his band.
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