Beardyman & The Dream Team [Live Review – The Electric Ballroom, London, 20/1/2017]
UPDATE: TMMP has been reborn! This video has the full story:
How would you celebrate the dawn of the coming apocalypse?
Well, you probably wouldn’t celebrate it. First, you’d shit yourself – if not physically, then mentally at least. In a culture prone to panicking at the brief loss of a free 4G connection, the end of the world is not something we’d be likely to take lightly.
Donald Trump officially came into power yesterday – and last night also happened to be the night that Beardyman and the Dream Team took the stage at Camden’s Electric Ballroom to do their usual thing – although that “usual thing” can only be considered a usual thing within the context of this particular band of musical renegades. Improvising an entire album’s worth of music from scratch – starting with nothing but a series of song titles plucked from a bucket – is definitively not a usual thing by any stretch of the imagination. But nonetheless, it is what the Dream Team do, their trademark, their signature skill.
This is how it normally works. Before the show, willing and able audience members are invited to fill out song title suggestion forms and place them in the Bucket of Possibilities. That bucket then goes onstage with the band, where its sacred space is occasionally violated so that the Dream Team can feed itself with fresh inspiration.
For last night’s show, the Dream Team comprised Beardyman on face-beatbox-noises, looper, and Beardytron (more on that below); MCs LeeN and Dizraeli; cellist Rob Lewis; drummist Emre Ramazanoglu; and world-DMC-title-winning turntablist Jon 1st. Nothing was prepared in advance – everything, everything, every note, beat, bassline, melody, chord and word was improvised. The only way to prepare for such a feat is to A) be really fucking good, and B) practice.
At this point, the Dream Team have existed for a couple of years – and so they’ve naturally accumulated a hell of a lot of experience in that time. But even at the start, their skills were insane. Check out the video players below and see for yourself what they were capable of before.
“Mind-blowing” doesn’t even cover it.
In any case, you now understand the Dream Team’s modus operandi. That’s how they normally go about things. But at the Electric Ballroom, Beardyman’s hand-picked collective of worthy collaborators took things to a whole other level.
Bucket-plucking moments were relatively few and far between last night – and actually much better for it. At Electric Brixton last year, the Dream Team’s set started with a tune called 30 Cheese-Related Reasons I Can Dance, which was ultimately declared a forfeit by the band themselves despite some heroic attempts at divining great rhymes from a pretty lame title. This time around, there was a far greater level of quality control – and the results were top-class.
It can’t be stressed enough that the Dream Team’s music is entirely improvised. That means that the likes of Shady Geezers will never exist again. If you heard that song live last night, you will never hear it performed live again. One minute it didn’t exist; the next it did; a few minutes later it used to exist; and now it’s gone. What followed was a set fuelled mostly by pure inspiration, new songs and even extended instrumentals based upon a line or a word that LeeN, Dizraeli, or Beardyman happened to spit off the top of their heads.
Two bucket-inspired songs proved instant classics: I’m 30 Next Year What Am I Gonna Do and Posh Harold’s Predicament. The former: a passionately vocal middle finger in the face of ageism. The latter: Dizraeli stealing the show, sprinting through a tale of upper-upper-class debauchery before LeeN twists the plot in a darker direction. Meanwhile, It Takes A Long Lick is kept relatively clean, homing innuendos and family-friendly reframes for the duration of its existence.
Aside from those, though, this show was mainly a pure energy feedback loop that saw the Dream Team take inspiration and direction from its own members above all else. Beardyman names Check It, and the band dig into a heavy Prodigy-style groove; Junior Doctors is initially declared too depressing before LeeN and Dizraeli demonstrate their ability to weave current affairs into peerless lines; Run For Your Lives sounds like Muse on crystal meth; All Over Stampede contrasts reggae with drum ‘n’ bass; and What’s On My Mind sees Dizraeli mention Donald Trump.
On that note: despite the current political climate, Beardyman and the Dream Team did not leave the stage having penned a primarily political album. Aside from a rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner set to a glitching picture of the spray-tanned sex predator who happens to now be the most powerful man in the world, the Dream Team’s focus was really set upon Friday-night-party-friendly music and a different kind of politics, one it’s easy to get behind. In essence, as LeeN made clear freestyle during the full-band encore, the Dream Team are all about fighting hate by spreading love, support, and tolerance.
When it was all over, as the Electric Ballroom crowd filtered through the exits and gushed about Posh Harold’s Predicament and how heavy the band were, another key conversation topic sprung up. The reality we live in now – sat anxiously at the start of a painfully portentous shitstorm – is the result of our allowing hatred, division, and discrimination to run rampant while doing relatively little to combat it. LeeN’s set-ending point is key: We need to make an active effort to connect and engage in a positive and constructive way with the world around us, even if it pushes us outside our comfort zones.
Even the most optimistic people acknowledge that there are tough times ahead. That makes the Dream Team, their music, and their message utterly indispensable.
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See you in the next video!