25 January 2015
Robert Burns, Rabbie Burns, Robbie Burns, the Bard. There were so many choices for what name should be iced on to Scotland’s national poet’s birthday cake, that it was fitting that Edinburgh’s Rally & Broad team rolled into Glasgow with “The Apology Shop”. Rachel McCrum and Jenny Lindsay’s firebrand show melds spoken word, performance poetry, and music with impactive lyrical content, all stationed within the hospitable basement of Stereo Cafe. The decision to move the R&B shows from Wednesday evenings at the Tron Theatre to Sunday afternoons in Stereo has proven to be an astute one as droves of the rain-sodden public piled beneath the cobbles on Renfield Lane. With such extensive choice around the city, the R&B event appears to be making itself quite at home with a public blithely familiarising themselves more with cabarets than Songs of Praise. ust as Burns alluded that we are all equal prey in his poem “To A Louse”, the spoils on offer at this afternoon’s line-up were genuinely remarkable:
Shambles Miller is one of those musicians where the music is almost incidental to the story-telling. A well-rounded performer, Shambles’ easy going manner allows laughs to filter between each couplet, each string pluck, and it becomes simple to see why a spot supporting the similarly-endearing Beans On Toast towards the end of 2014 was acquired. Dipping in to the sterling repertoire available as digital albums on his website, Shambles played a set of three songs, consisting of the EP single, “Confessions” – a beautiful ode to an ex lover which doesn’t so much tug as much as it does haul the listener in to the smaller, finer details of relationships. The killer line ‘So long and thanks for all the sex’ is executed in a strangely-comforting manner, which is a clear precedent of Shambles’ instantly likeable character. That uncanny knack of knowing when to pause for laughs (and they were always coming…) is clear throughout the bewitching second song, “Rapture” – a paean to the end of the world, before Shambles rounded off his short but effective set with one further number; a wonderful, commentating musician to begin proceedings.
As the waist-coated and bearded musician stepped offstage, it was then the turn of Texan-talent Carly Brown. A stunning set, garnished in unorthodox, theatrical, and comedic ingenuity graced each poem that Carly chose to perform. The wonderful “50 Shades” was a critical review of the character Anastasia Steele from the book of the same name (albeit, ‘of grey’ tones), analysing our so-called heroine’s self-perception. Carly’s next piece insisted that she was ‘not a poet’; a wonderful tongue-in-cheek look at the ingredients which supposedly mould what a poet should adhere to; the ‘black polo neck top’, ‘the black racoon eyes’, etc. It became clear how Carly became the Scottish Slam Champion in 2013, demonstrating an astute attention to detail and a bright approach to subject matter. Final poem “Texas, I Can’t Bring You To Parties Anymore” was a volatile, but erudite, response to the methods and disciplines adopted by her home state – racism, the death penalty, and the deeply-ingrained lifestyle of Texans were all subject to Carly’s clinical revulsion. This is a poet whose smile is as wide as her talent, and one that promises a fantastic future ahead of her.
Next on the stage was Glasgow’s irreplaceable Kevin P. Gilday, vexing facetious and indignant verse from his second full-length show, The Man Who Loved Beer. As one of the hardest-working poets on the scene, Kevin’s devotion to performance poetry have provided indelible memories during 2014 of performing to thousands at George Square during the referendum and the privilege of sharing his thoughts upon the spoken word stage at Glastonbury; rallies and broad-range, if you will. Gilday’s confession to being enormously hungover was apparent as he clung to the microphone, face whitened by the spotlight, head tilted backwards. However, this worked beautifully in the young poet’s favour as he frothed lines that painted pictures of alcohol dependency (“I’m a can-carrying man /a pint-swallowing bam”…) and an ugly Glasgow with all its prejudices and shortcomings. An expertly-delivered poem entitled “Found In The Mud” listed off Kevin’s first experience of the patter that circulates round Glastonbury festival, with the line ‘Some mud went in my hummus’ delighting the capacity-crowd, roaring with approval. It is Kevin’s grasp of culture, patter, and the patterns of behaviour that Glaswegians depict that makes his poetry such an accessible and enjoyable experience. This continues in the final segment of his set; the exhausted escapade of “Middle Class Love”, the dispirited-but-still-horny “Hangover Poem #3 – Hangover Sex’, and the cringe-worthy treasure that is “There’s A Workie In My House”.
Liz Lochhead was the ideal way to finish the spoken word proceedings. As Scotland’s makar, Lochhead’s poetry has influenced writers the length and breadth of the country for decades, and continues to inspire young (and old) minds alike with her sharp wit and often beguiling story-telling. Today, seeing as it was Burns Day, Lochhead opted to recite Burns’ celebrated poem “To A Mouse”. This preceded her sublime response “From A Mouse”, where the bold vermin retorts to Rabbie’s scolding words. A self adulating slant considers poetry, life, and a bluster that Lochhead expertly delivers in her usual witty style; “Get Rentokil, get real”. Prior to rushing off to a Cumbernauld theatre for a Burns Night, Lochhead (in resplendent tartan jacket) promised to deliver some “mucky” poems for her audience, and the last two were certainly delivered with aplomb; “Song For A Dirty Diva” was a delightfully comical look at a sex life at standstill, while the final effort contemplated the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton (SAGE) – a quick-witted reflection of sex in the sixties compared with the modern day, and the subject ‘happy to be a member of permissive society’. Often allowing the audience to finish her lines, Lochhead was a fantastic performer to the end, fully befitting of her maker title.
Hip-hop MC and wordsmith Loki was due to round off ‘The Apology Shop’, but was replaced at the final minute by the piquant flavours of Black Lantern’s formidable Texture (Bram E Gieben). As one of the BL founders, Texture has become part of the thriving hip-hop scene which has emerged out of Scotland over the last couple of years. This ability to drop intelligent, relevant and sincere words over electronic landscapes works beautifully on the incredible “Burn”, with Texture’s atmospheric, hypnotic swirl shuddering the walls inside of Stereo. An equally haunting but exhilarating “Incvbate” weighs in with commentary about society’s pressures, and clever lines such as ‘…uninspired by church spires’ are spit out with such venom that it is difficult to argue that Texture isn’t the real deal, and speaks from the heart.
In light of those stories which have failed to reach mainstream media, Texture’s snarling indignation permeates during the third number, echoing ‘nothing is sacred’, until the frustration of attitudes in the early eighties during “Echo Boomers” allows sections of the audience to revel in an incredible hook that overlays a time when ‘Thatcher’s sarcastic pound snatchers’ were gaining momentum. Texture’s anti-corporate stance and gifted vocabulary doesn’t always make it easy listening, but then it never was supposed to be – as the final number, as Texture says is “a love song to the Scottish hip-hop scene”, testifies; nods are awarded to Loki and Hector Bizerk, with Texture’s affection quite visible – ‘…we’re part of a mongrel family’. This was an astonishing look at what spoken word can become in future, if aided by confidence, electronics, and a direction.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Reviewer : Stephen Watt