UK Hip Hop: International
Mark B & Blade - Live at the Mean Fiddler's LA2 Venue 24/01/01
Bark B & Blade - The Unknown Single Cover

DJ Plus One
Being a warm up night for the new tour and media showcase for the release of the new single - the Unknown, we were determined to get there early and avoid the inevitable hassles that can occur on the door. Being the LA2 this meant that the gig would be an early one as they convert the venue into a club night later on. I left work early and hooked up with my spars in-front of the pool at the Centrepoint in the West End, the LA2 is opposite. Not hanging about because it was a dark cold night and was starting to sleet we made our way in as the doors opened at 7pm. Once inside we were greeted by the sounds of the Mixologists spinning tunes and once we had our refreshments we secured a table to the right of the stage.

After a while Killa Kela took to the stage and started winding up the crowd, getting them involved and shouting out what would go down later in the night. First off was a scratching and mixing showcase from DJ Go and his Mixologist associates. On 6 turntables they broke down and reconstructed several well known tunes and even re-mixed some drum and bass. Although quite impressive their set was not free from mistakes and whilst the skill of swapping turntables whist mixing was to be noted, it was not apparent that they needed three DJs to complete the majority of their set. The crowd were however feeling the show and throughout their time the venue steadily filled until it was practically rammed.

Kela then returned to do his solo bit and as this was the first time I had seen him I was blown away. This is one dude with a shit-load of skill. He was able to do beats, bass-lines, vocals and effects all at once, at points it is hard to believe all the sound is coming from one person.

After this the main support took to the stage. This was Luton's Phi Life Cypher with DJ Nappa. After claiming that they hadn't eaten for 8 days they proceeded to wreck shop, opening the show with Earth Rulers and continued with tracks from their Millennium Metaphors LP. They also blessed the appreciative crowd with loads of freestyle rhymes with MC Philli taking most of the honours.

Kela was then back to introduce the main act of the night and media's UK Hip Hop man of the moment: Blade, who was backed up by DXFO's Defisis and Mark B on the beats and DJ Plus One on the decks. Blade stepped to the stage dressed in a grey sweatshirt and his trademark cap and told the cheering crowd 'this is the biggest night of my life', and he might almost have been telling the truth. All these people have come to see him and after years of struggling he is finally getting some exposure and a minor chart hit. The show gets off to a great start with everyone going mental, but soon the DAT fails. Blade and Defisis try to style it accapella, but the music isn't coming back. Eventually they stop and Blade despondently says 'this can be happening, not tonight'. He asks the crowd if he should start from the top and the resounding cheer is 'yes'. The tape is re-wound and Blade makes the engineer promise it will not happen again. It doesn't and the show is blinding from then on.

The atmosphere builds as they run through tracks off the album such as 'Ya Don't See the Signs' and 'One Shark, One Piranha'. For 'Split Personalities' Defisis raps Al Tariq's lines and the first few rows of the audience help with the chorus. Knowing things are going well and everyone would be up for it Blade asks if he stage dives will the crowd hold him up? Everyone beckons him to stage dive, but Blade is wary, having experienced diving into a rapidly parting crowd and landing on the concrete floor. Revelling in the nature of the enthusiastic crowd Blade goes for it and is carried right to the back of the dance floor and back to the front again. 

Excitedly Blade goes to the side of the stage and says to his watching son, "Tomorrow you'll be able to tell everyone at school what your dad did!". Later in the set Blade brought his young kid 'Jordan' to the stage and coaxed the shy boy to perform a little set piece they had worked out where Blade would rap a line and then Jordan would ask the crowd to "Now Scream". After the crowds positive response first time round he visibly grew in confidence and beamed from ear to ear.

Very nervously the idea of Jordan crowd surfing is mooted and asking the audience to take care of his one and only, his kid was handed onto waiting hands and was carried above the crowds heads right to the back where he was able to grab the balcony. Then the mass brought him safely back to the front where he was delivered into the welcoming arms of Blade and a security bloke. Blade was hyped at this as was his son who wanted to show his appreciation by throwing Lucozade on the crowd. Blade suggested he use water and we were faced with the mad sight of a 6 yr old spraying water on the crowd and being cheered by them. In a stage diving frenzy Defisis follows suite, stage dives, but after a few seconds the crowd buckles under him. But he just jumps up in the air and everyone lifts him up and closes in beneath him. He's surfing his way back to the stage again. Blade and Jordan both go for it again hyped from their previous experiences, Jordan taking a running jump from the back of the stage. This time however he lost his shoe and Blade had to call for it to be returned.

Stoked with the night, his performance so far and tiring, Blade finds a chair from the back of the stage and places it on the table between Mark B and Plus One's decks. He then clambers up and sits towering above everyone to perform 'The Unknown'. The audience go wild waving their arms in the air even more energetically, joining in the lyrics and chanting to the chorus. Blade sits back crossing his arms, smiling thoroughly satisfied with the audiences reaction.

During the performance of 'The Long Awaited' Blade steps aside and lets the recently released Skinnyman take the limelight for his verse. Skinny is definitely a crowd favourite and the already hyped crowd took it to another level.

At the end of the show Blade calls several of the UK's finest out of the crowd and from the back of the stage to show the strength and depth in the current crop of UK artists. In a humerous act of homage and role reversal Blade gets on his knees to kiss the floor in front of them. Getting to his feet he points to them and names them stating that, 'This is where it starts... take note, this is the face of UK Hip Hop - Blade, Mark B, Plus One, Rodney P, Killa Kella, Task Force, Skinnyman, Defisis, Xeno' etc, he goes on to say that he's is not out for himself and any success he has will mean nothing unless others get their chance to shine and are brought on by the bigger labels.

After sustained crowd pressure Blade returned to the stage to perform his classic 1991 release 'Survival Of The Hardest Working'. He asks the crowd to Jump all the way to the end and making the most of a night drawing to its close the crowd oblige. The song ends with most of the performers in the audience and Task Force, never ones to back down take their opportunity to step up. They proceed to spit some tremendous freestyles over some instrumentals and give everyone an unexpected, but very welcome extra to bring the evening to a close. And then all too soon it is over, everyone is in the audience and everyone knows they have witnessed a special thing, leaving a distinct aura of satisfaction in the auditorium.

Blade has certainly come a long way, I can remember occasions around 1990 when Blade would play to 30 moody people in a room out the back of some pub. Nowadays it is becoming more common to have a full venue full of people having a great time. Hopefully this can be the start of something big for Blade, but those sentiments have been expressed many times before.

Listen to Plus One's Euro Scratch.

WordplayVisit Mark B & Blade on the web: www.markbandblade.com :: Email: info@markbandblade.com

Mark B and Blade - The Unknown 12"

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