Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Nas & Damian Marley: Manchester Apollo 02/04/11

Nas & Damian Marley - Manchester Apollo 02/04/11 PHOTO: Adam Irving
Nas & Damian Marley - Manchester Apollo 02/04/11 PHOTO: Adam Irving Nas & Damian Marley - Manchester Apollo 02/04/11 PHOTO: Adam Irving Nas - Manchester Apollo 02/04/11 PHOTO: Adam Irving Damian Marley - Manchester Apollo 02/04/11 PHOTO: Adam Irving Nas - Manchester Apollo 02/04/11 PHOTO: Adam Irving Damian Marley - Manchester Apollo 02/04/11 PHOTO: Adam Irving Damian Marley - Manchester Apollo 02/04/11 PHOTO: Adam Irving Nas - Manchester Apollo 02/04/11 PHOTO: Adam Irving

Hip-Hop is nearly forty years old and judging by the audience of this show itâs still succeeding in doing what it did four decades ago; bringing people together who love music and blowing the roof off the joint.

The queue outside Manchester Apollo all waiting to see Nas and Damian Marley and they are the strangest mix of people Iâve seen at any gig Iâve ever been to. There are white faces, black faces, Asian faces, blonde teenage girls in skimpy dresses, middle aged men in three piece suits, fifty year old skinheads, parents with prepubescent children, girls and guys in tracksuits, chavs in baseball caps and Rastaâs in combat gear, all side by side waiting to get into the sold out event. The queue slowly filters in and the veteran gig goers push past bewildered looking gig virgins clutching unofficial tour t-shirts. I hear conversations in German, French, Polish and Italian as I weave through the mass of people. There is absolutely no audience demographic whatsoever, it's a marketing companyâs worst nightmare and itâs a truly amazing atmosphere.

Before Nas and Marley come on, from the press pit at the front of the stage I get another look at the crowd and think that surely some of these people have come to the wrong venue. The kid with the Metallica T-shirt, the woman with a bag of homemade sandwiches. And then something truly jaw dropping happens. The DJ stops the music, and plays an acappella version of Biggieâs 'Juicy' and in unison the whole audience chants the verses word for word, rapping without a beat, hundreds of bobbing heads all doing the same thing. And Iâm impressed.

From the second Nas and Marley bounce on stage they have total ownership of the audience. Although it seems an unlikely coupling of acts, the two artists emit a genuine impression that thereâs nothing else theyâd rather be doing than performing these songs together. The reggae tinged Hip Hop flows like itâs a day old.

Anyone expecting theatrics, light shows and costumes would have been disappointed. Itâs clear from the first few moments that itâs all about the music. As they perform, Nas in plain white T-shirt, jeans and red trainers & baseball cap trades brief poses with Marley, who is equally inconspicuously dressed save for the five foot long dreadlocks.

They band is impressive; drums, bass, guitar, percussion, two keyboards, DJ and two female backing singers. The sound is predictably massive and unrelenting as they rip through several bass heavy cuts from the 'Distant Relative' album.

Marley scoots offstage for a few moments in order for Nas to fire off a handful of his solo hits; 'Hip Hop is Dead', 'If I Ruled the World', 'Got UR Self A Gun', the audience manages to keep up with him word for word at all times. He then returned the favour and leaves Marley to do his solo thing. But this definitely isnât just two separate artists sharing a stage. When the two come together again to perform their collaborative tunes the audience goes crazy, they came to see both these guys.

Throughout the show the overall message is of love and understanding is reiterated, which is quite often uttered at Hip-Hop gigs, but I donât think Iâve ever believed it until now. A skinhead grabs me at one point, hugs me and says âthis is amazing.â It is.

Thereâs no forgetting who Damianâs surname though, it must be like being called Lennon or McCartney, but despite Bobâs presence being heard throughout the night, most noticeably on beefed up cover of 'Could You Be Loved', thereâs no questions that Damian is truly an artist in his own right, regardless of who his father may have been.

As the gig draws to a close the clouds of green weed smoke fill the building and the security seem to give fighting it. Nas returns solo for a blistering version of 'One Mic' and when Marley sings a solo tune, Nas stays onstage playing congas and looking like a little kid having fun. Two hours of top quality music ends without a whiff of pretentiousness, slick stage effects, costume changes, dancing or auto-tune and of that theatricality seems to have been missed. You should have been there.
Words ADAM IRVING

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