Hector Revisited – King Tut’s, Glasgow – 13/7/12

Posted: 17/07/2012 in Local Music
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Upon reaching the peak of the well-trodden King Tut’s staircase, the first thing that strikes you is how much more open than usual the venue feels, as there are no barriers in front of the stage or guarding the steps up to the sound desk. This gives the already very intimate setting an even more personal feel for the evening and the Hector Bizerk logos adorning every wall serve to remind you exactly why you’re here.

Tonight is the official album launch for the, of late, hotly-tipped duo’s freshly-pressed Drums. Rap. Yes. offering and, as such, now seems as good a time as any to provide some coverage of how far the pair have come in the eight months since their last appearance in these pages.

“Are you ready to go Hector!?” challenges frontman Louie, instigating a deafening chant of “Hector! Hector! Hector Bizerk!” which reverberates around the room until the group see fit to strike up the first track from their new album, also titled Drums. Rap. Yes. Although this – along with selected other cuts from the album – was only leaked this week, both crowd and entertainers immediately enter into a flawless call and response routine which sees the set’s first offering quickly metamorphose into a sort of rallying call for the ferociously fanatical fanbase which has amassed throughout the group’s journey towards where they currently stand. Even at this very early stage in the proceedings, it is perfectly clear that King Tut’s belongs to them for tonight.

By the time the second number (the inimitable Burst Love) punches into life, the aforementioned lack of barriers has become absolutely impossible to ignore, mainly due to the onstage presence of Louie. Exercising his customary command of the room, tonight he immerses himself in a performance that evokes a persona even more captivating and confrontational than usual, seeming to push further into the collective face of the audience with every beat. With no barrier between frontman and crowd and such a volatile atmosphere of barely-restrained mania, the interaction – visually, at least – bears more resemblance to a street brawl than a gig.

Meanwhile, Audrey weaves her typical effortless mastery of the beat, with a resolutely self-assured and professional air. Where Louie is the born frontman of the two, Audrey is the calm and collected driving force to match, and this idea echoes in their stage positioning which sees Louie launching his lyrical assaults from the frontlines as Audrey maintains rhythmic control from the rear.

—–

Already, a couple of developments are apparent since last time. For one, the self-referencing which permeates their set suggests a massive progression in self-belief. No five minute segment of stage-time goes by without a chant of “Hector Bizerk” or the tossing around of the “Drums. Rap. Yes.” credo and, although this would be an embarassingly limp display if the crowd’s response wasn’t up to scratch, Louie and Audrey’s loyal subjects do exactly what is expected of them with absolute gusto, each time positively roaring back whatever the moment calls for.

The other, perhaps even more blatantly obvious, change from the Scottish hip-hop outfit’s earlier days is that the duo appears to have – in some instances, at least – become a foursome. For selected live dates (tonight included) and some of the tracks featured on their new album, Louie and Audrey are joined by Jen Muir, for keys and percussion, and Fraser Sneddon on bass. The original impetus for these additions was a result of the confirmation of T in the Park and Wickerman appearances, where it seems the duo were concerned their original line-up wouldn’t sound sonically full enough. As such, the occasional inclusion of these other members appears to be more the equivalent of taking a backing band on tour than a genuine alteration to the group’s permanent set-up.

Nonetheless, it would be easy to succumb to a mixture of feelings, as regards this – albeit tentative and impermanent – shake-up of musical personnel. The intention behind it is understandable enough and, if tonight’s performance is anything to go by, it seems to work in a live context. However, when it comes to recorded efforts, it could be suggested that moving away from the admirable and innovative ‘one MC, one drummer’ set-up also acts as a movement away from their roots and the raw, visceral sound that came from such a stripped-back arrangement.

Drums. Rap. Yes.  works just fine, without letting it turn into Drums. Rap. Keyboards. Bassist. Etc.

In fairness, if looked at objectively, it is plain to see how the Hector Bizerk blueprint could generate fears of a sound that is a bit sparse or empty but, subjectively, Louie is a gifted enough lyricist – and Audrey a talented enough stickswoman – that each bar hits with such unparallelled force, as to make any other input – however adept – surplus to requirements.

—–

The crowd has become a seething, frenzied rabble by the end of Burst Love and, as Let it Go strikes up, the ominous shaking of the second-floor venue is becoming more than a niggling concern. As the song progresses, though, unperturbed and kind-hearted volunteers begin to work their way through the uproarious throng of bodies, distributing Hector Bizerk masks which are willingly snapped up and immediately held aloft by all recipients.

The remainder of this already treacherous task is rendered completely futile, however, when there is a sudden furious surge backwards, as Louie – seemingly out of nowhere – brandishes a flag that is simply much too large for the confines of a space like King Tut’s, bearing the legend:

DRUMS.

RAP.

YES.

HECTOR BIZERK.

This heralds the arrival of what is undoubtedly the evening’s most poignant and uplifting moment, as Louie alternates between waving the flag with reckless abandon and standing rapping with with it propped up over one shoulder. Against their best intentions, all present are immediately part of a moment of pure patriotism and pride as the forerunners of Scottish hip-hop literally fly their flag. It is the poetic nature of this scene, coupled with the sight of a frontman so utterly devoid of the slightest shred of self-doubt or inhibition, that turns the already insanely rowdy crowd almost feral and gives rise to a certain excited concern that the good-natured swaying and stumbling of the more inebriated contingents could turn slightly nasty. This is not to suggest that the atmosphere becomes unsettling, so much as it is an acknowledgement of the materialisation of the familiar, and almost welcome, sense of danger that comes with the emergence of anything exciting from the underground to the mainstream.

—–

You can almost hear the hearts of the crowd sink as Louie announces that The Rhythm Theory will be “the last tune of the night” and, likewise, feel the elation as the voracious requests for “ONE MORE TUNE!” are granted.

As Audrey jumps back astride the drums for a solo that sees the metaphorical spotlight focussed firmly on her, Louie takes the opportunity to introduce each member onstage in a gesture of professionalism that exceeds the group’s years and experience. The audience are then treated to an encore of Sometimes I Wonder, which feels as though it was made for this exact moment of triumph, dripping as it is with cocksure lyrics – “sometimes I wonder what other people’s problem is” – and knowingly faux-arrogant posturing, courtesy of the “what? what? what?” refrain.

At this precise juncture – with crowd in a seething uproar, drums reaching a crescendo, Hector masks waving frantically and frontman standing before his subjects, replete with billowing flag – Hector Bizerk feel like an act that long ago outgrew this size of venue and have merely returned to pay homage to their humble beginnings.

The conduct of the performers and response of the crowd make tonight feel like the inauguration of Louie and Audrey as bona fide superstars and it would be easy to attribute this boost in confidence and fan loyalty to their recent high-profile support slots and festival appearances. However, to do so would be to take away from how tirelessly the pair have worked to get to where they are. The Hector Bizerk legend has been built through their own sweat, toil and dedication and tonight sees that legend take the headlining slot it rightfully deserves.

Perhaps the most telling moment of the evening, in this respect, comes with the line “we like yer tunes but you sound like a ned” in the track entitled Niche II. Back when the twosome were starting out, this seemed a candidly astute observation of their biggest hurdle. Now, however, it seems like a whimsical throwback to an obstacle that’s been brutally kicked to pieces and then smashed in the chops with a Bucky bottle for good measure.

Listen to Drums. Rap. Yes.

Hector Bizerk on Facebook

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Comments
  1. tony kamal says:

    fab review for hector i myself was there ofcourse been in my wheelchair at front of everyone gettin drenched in the flying pints every where lets go hector loved it

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