Buck 65 and ELLESQUIRE at The Basement, Sydney October 23rd 2014
Some artists transcend that role when they emerge on stage. It's always difficult for hip hop purveyors to piece together an entertaining show on a budget, when it is just essentially them and a laptop in front of a room full of expectant people. Buck 65 has enough miles under his belt to know the ins and outs, but he is so much more than the travelling troubadour he likes to portray on record. On stage he transforms from artist to pure entertainer, equal parts poet, comedian, dance extroadinaire, sage story teller and visual treat.
But first up, we had ELLESQUIRE, tasked with warming the incredibly eclectic and varied crowd that had amassed in the intimate confines of The Basement. He emerged to.. not a hostile audience, but one keen on soaking up the ambience. He turned ambivalence in to raucous enjoyment with his brand of every-man hip hop. A mix of humour and honesty, with a touch of technical dexterity meant that his 40 minute set would almost have been a show stealer if it weren't for the professional lurking behind the curtain waiting to unleash upon us. All in all, an entirely enjoyable set, punctuated by mirth-inducing lyrics and a song about a cricket that elevated the status of the insect from nuisance to artistic tool. Check him out, he is a real light on the Aus hip hop scene.
Buck may have slightly ruined his mystique by arriving on stage, without fanfare, slightly early to tinker with his technology, but as soon as he made his way to the microphone that was instantly forgotten. Adorned in a cheap suit and a brand new belt that we were told was a minor breakthrough, in that it was double sided, his inital anxiousness gave way to consummate professional. Opening with the bone crushing first track from new album NeverLove, Gates of Hell, he quickly warmed to the task in a breathless display. The first half of his set was an absolute delight for seasoned Buck veterans, with beauty like Bachelor of Science, Cries a Girl (amazing), Indestructible Sam (complete with shovel-wielding theatrics) and a nice treatment of Roses and Bluejays. Tiger Rosa was introduced, and her lovely tones swept across the now packed dancefloor, as it became clear why she was so heavily involved in the making of his new record.
This isn't just a hip hop concert, though. For $37 you get the pleasure of witnessing every aspect of the mans personality, amplified 100 times through his anecdotes and his impossibly slick dance moves. Laundromat Boogie, probably a song most wouldn't have heard, was met with pure glee from the fun loving crowd, as his various active enhancements turned it in to a piece of performance art. We were treated at regular intervals to some instructional tapings regarding women's breasts, and a song, preceeded by the sobering news of the Canadian shootings, about side boob. Somehow, it wasn't distasteful in any way.
Having followed Buck religiously for the past 24 months, his heartache and pain was plain to see. He reserved his most energetic vocal performances for tracks from his new record. Only War was a booming expression of hurt, 'can't get you out of my system' coming with more emotion than a digital copy can house. Heart of Stone was equally painful, and in fact this reviewer was very critical of NeverLove, but having seen these songs performed live by the man himself it only adds weight to the entire situation. Whilst energetic and enthused when asked, Buck appeared drawn and lonely, at times cutting a sad figure as he danced through some emotions that were contrary to his movements. In only the way a great artist can, he brought to life his inner thoughts and projected them on to us, which may seem selfish but anyone who had heard the commentary for NeverLove before it's release knew exactly what they were getting themselves in to.
By no means were there tears or any kind of apathy from casual observers. In the humungous set, Buck kept energy levels at a peak, masterfully using his extensive back catalogue to control the moods and whims of the crowd who went quite stir crazy at times. Drunken dancers overcome, budding singers were revealed, a genuine sense of community settled in amongst the punters. We may not be the most mainstream in our music choices, but one thing is 100% certain if you are a Buck 65 fan: he has touched you deeply in some way. If you listen to any of his music with any kind of involvement, you cannot avoid his reach, and seeing him in person and celebrating his career with him with crazy dancing and loud sing-a-longs is just beautiful.
One man, on a stage, with a laptop, in a small room. It could have gone horribly wrong. But there's a reason why Buck is now 23 years in to this weird career he has cultivated. The man puts on one HELL of a live show. If you ever get the chance to see him, do not hesitate for a second. He will win you over, I guarantee it.
Find ELLESQUIRE here: https://www.facebook.com/ellesquire
Find Buck 65 here: www.buck65.com