Any lyricist pointing so energetically to their own words will divide listeners, but that’s no problem here – he’s preaching to the choir.
In an interview with Bristol Live last week, London MC iTCH talked of how much he preferred playing solo to with his previous outfit, The King Blues. As he took the stage at The Anson Rooms to confront a typically apathetic support crowd, this comment smacked of ‘positive mental attitude’. It’s tough playing unreleased songs – his debut LP ‘The Deep End’ comes out on March 24 – and it’s even tougher when the verses flow this fast. The opening few tracks pass by in a haze of unintelligible, yet quite angry sentiment. iTCH is one of those artists who you sense is a thoroughly nice man permanently wearing the face of learnt irritation. He stomps around the stage, doing his best to make a spectacle out of no instruments, scant lighting and, not to labour the point, unknown music.
And he does a decent job. The aggression is compelling and there is enough on stage to keep our attention for the first ten minutes. Partly because iTCH has opted to wear a mesh vest, despite being a squat man of proportions not dissimilar to a toddler. His only stage-mate looks to continue the theme. Not of translucent clothing but of infancy, wearing over his head a hideous latex mask of a bawling baby. It’s realistic and only so much bigger than an adult head that to look at it is thoroughly uncomfortable, which is surely the desired effect.
But iTCH has experience in performance beyond his years and, understanding the limits of what he can achieve tonight musically, makes certain the audience will remember him. After beckoning forward the still milling crowd with total confidence, he hops down from the stage and starts a song. A circle forms diligently around his considerable presence and without hesitation he has even the older fans dropping dutiful, undignified palms. Far from acting beyond his station as a lowly support, this is welcome adventure from an artist whose developing fanbase, soon to have learnt the words to a new clutch of songs, can be confident when buying tickets for inevitable headline slots.
When dan le sac vs Scroobius Pip burst into view with gimmicky single ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ in 2008, the latter cannot have predicted the coming popularity of his signature beard. As he bounds onto the stage, hundreds of hirsute faces stare back, like the KISS army but with months of preparation. Beats man dan le sac precedes him, warming up ‘Stunner’, the opener from October’s ‘Repent Replenish Repeat.
Pip, as his stage-mate calls him, doesn’t have any of iTCH’s issues with clarity of diction. It would pain him that punters might leave with anything less total comprehension of his message. Every line, every rhyme, yearns to be heard, its profundity fully absorbed. Any lyricist pointing so energetically to their own words will divide listeners, but that’s no problem here – he’s preaching to the choir.
Somewhat literally. Not only are his choruses fired back at him – the longest beards know the words to the verses, too – but at points his sermons are vivified by props. A set of keys for ‘Porter’. An open folder, or hymn-sheet, for latest single ‘You Will See Me’.
In accompanying such a performer, dan le sac is oddly chatty. Any expectation that the decksman might play a more enigmatic role to balance his evangelising, crystal clear co-star, is dashed in a flurry of inter-song banter. He makes regular trips from behind his station to chum it up with the front few rows. On one or two occasions, the mostly patient Pip looks quite keen to get on with it.
And they do, ripping through a set of equal parts aggression, brooding and straight pop – the crowd seem to enjoy the grinning, strutting synth of ‘Get Better’ as much as any of the more arresting breakbeats on show. The only variable factor in their performance is Pip’s energy and vocal, which cannot honestly be faulted. The same goes for his effort. By the time the house lights go up, after dan le sac’s solo remix of The Prodigy’s ‘Poison’, Scroobius Pip is already on the merchandise stand, shaking hands and taking compliments for a job well done.
Check out the video for ‘You Wil See Me’ right here: