Missy Elliott, Hammersmith Odeon, London

A gloopy mix served up by the hobbling 'Queen of Hip Hop'
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The Independent Culture

It was one of the most eagerly awaited gigs of the year, although it was treated with trepidation as well as anticipation. It had been postponed from last month, when Missy Elliott underwent an operation on her Achilles tendon.

Rap's most successful female artist had not played in the UK since 2000. The rapper/producer has always been happier in the studio but needed to impress on stage.

She is a musical icon with substance, thanks to dazzling collaborations with the producer, Timbaland, that have introduced new sounds to the genre. She also brings an uncompromising attitude that allows her to be sexually frank without sounding submissive. Having said that, she has failed to match 2002's exuberant album Under Construction. Her sixth album The Cookbook is flabby by comparison. Here, the rapper swaps cutting-edge beats for vulnerable R&B romanticism, her most tunesome output since 1997 debut Supa Dupa Fly.

Not that the audience that packed the theatre appeared concerned. Roaring to the warm-up DJ, they knew Elliott could have filled a much larger venue. Indeed, they rose to their feet as one to greet the "Queen of Hip Hop". Like a magician's volunteer, she appeared from inside a giant turntable. To make fun of her injury, she got herself to the edge of the stage on a child's three-wheel scooter. Such an entrance reflected her fun persona on record, where she can spar with Eminem before "shooting" him.

An avowed trainer addict, Elliott, proudly displayed an oversized boot to show her plight. She still gave a livewire performance, her wide smile lighting both tiers. The area of the stage she could not cover was filled by a 20-strong dance troupe, that performed in groups to keep up with the jittery beats. On her last appearance, Elliott performed with a live band that failed to match her futurist sounds.

Tonight's mix was typically gloopy for a hip-hop gig, though you could differentiate the hits, short snippets clumped together. It meant you could not fall under the spell of "Get Ur Freak On" or "Soak in Rain's Sparse Soul Stylings". It also left Elliott breathless. Not the most gifted rapper, her delivery was downright clumsy and was she not able to unleash her useful singing voice.

You wished she imposed herself more but her humour and improvised style meant this was an antidote to hip-hop's macho posturing and the emotional hectoring of current R&B.

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