Show Review – Shabazz Palaces Live “Musical Mastery Tainted by Technical Imperfections”

Shabazz to the stageThe most humane aspect about technology is perhaps its imperfections. Although we’d like to think that computers are perfect, and they could never fail us, all in all they were still created by humans, we make mistakes, so do the machines.

Shabazz Palaces made a huge splash with their debut full length album, Black Up in 2011. Highly critically acclaimed, many journalist including myself named it the best album of that year. Naturally, I’ve been yearning to see them live ever since.

This night was one of those nights heavily advertised as an “early show.” To accommodate the drink thirsty, party goers of the weekend that want to hear countless bass drops, no matter how talented the touring artists are, they are scheduled so that the bar can maximize their profits. Although this is a sad reality, since the venues are faced with costs of maintaining a business, along with upholding liquor licenses, which is especially difficult in Vancouver it is understandable.

I got there about an hour after the suggested showtime, Shabazz was still not on. However, DJ Brendan Butter was warming up the stage playing all kinds of great electronic, hip hop, and other beat-centric music. Switching the songs up quickly, mixing up different styles so smoothly, he was easily one of the best local DJ’s in Vancouver that I have seen.

To welcome Shabazz to the stage, it started off with smoke, dark red lighting and an intro track that sounded like a demonic, space travelling sermon backed by a gospel choir. A perfect intro to the experimental, dark, mysterious hip hop mastery that is Shabazz Palaces. From the first sampled kick, it was on! Their tight, detailed sonic characteristics in the low end hit and shook the room just right. Emcee, Palanceer Lazaro’s unique voice cut through the mix as he does on their recordings, also playing the Roland SP-555, hitting pads, twisting knobs, looping, overdubbing live, it was all very dramatic and effective.

Percussionist, and singer Tendai ‘Baba’ Maraire performed masterfully on lots of acoustic instruments including the mbira, an African instrument consisting of metal keys in a bowl. In addition effortlessly playing a set of sample based drum pads containing anything from chimes to synth bass samples.

Watching them create their complex arrangements live was simply mind blowing, however throughout the set there was one major issue, their macbook. It was apparent early on that Palanceer’s laptop was crashing. Instead of disrupting the flow of the show in any way, they continued to try to figure out what was wrong, booting, rebooting the computer over and over while rapping flawlessly. That is talent! Eventually he took it off stage for it to be fixed by people backstage, and from then he went backstage after each song, but unfortunately it never did get fixed. On one hand, it was a great show filled with adventure, feeling, and emotion, on the other, it was distracting to see so much commotion stemmed from technical difficulties along with knowing that a lot of sounds weren’t heard.

Shabazz Palaces Online: www.shabazzpalaces.com

– Review by Bag

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