No matter how many gigs I go to, part of me is always worried it’s going to be a let down. Live shows live or die on the energy that rappers bring to the stage and I’m always fearful that the artist will just turn up, plough through the set list and barely interact with the audience before heading out the door soon as they can. And after years of touring, it must be tempting for some to just phone it in once in a while, especially when you’ve been going for as long as Sage Francis and B Dolan.
We needn’t have worried. Scotland is where Epic Beard Men wrote their latest album. They have a connection to this country and to the crowds here, so if there was one place they were going to bring their A-game, it would be here. Sure enough, they brought the goddamn house down. This was a great gig from start to finish with both Sage and Dolan, two rappers who come alive in front of an audience, taking the place by storm with the type of manic energy that makes a performance properly memorable. As good as they can be on wax, both turned it up a notch for the small crowd at the Blue Arrow, giving each song fantastic verve and energy that had the place bouncing from the jump.
For anyone looking to go to gigs at the Blue Arrow Club in the future, this was my first time there and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Although it’s not a big venue, and the rectangular shape doesn’t help people get very close to the stage, the acoustics were excellent throughout – even managing to cope with Sage roaring through ‘Hours and Minutes’.
One of the best aspects of the shows was the fact that Sage and Dolan understand the reason we go to concerts is to see something we don’t get at home, listening to the album. In that sense, EBM delivered in spades – throughout the show, both were chatting with the crowd, switching up their flow with unexpected ad-libs and working off the energy of the room. The new EBM album is already littered with Golden Era references but at the show, they took it to another level. I felt like LL Cool J had been name-checked about a dozen times before the first few songs were over and I’m sure I missed at least half a dozen more.
Also, although EBM had the place jumping with a host of tracks from This Was Supposed To Be Fun, including the standout ‘Hedges’ which was awesome to hear live, they didn’t confine themselves to their new material. Both Sage and Dolan pulled out some of their best tracks from their back catalogue for a pumped-up crowd of hip-hop heads. The moment when the beat for ‘Sea Lion’ dropped towards the end of the show was the best part of the night, the entire place rapping along as Sage skittered through the lyrics.
It would be hard to pick too many faults with the show itself – Sage and Dolan diving into the crowd for the final track and moshing was great – so it was a shame that things ended rather abruptly fairly early on. The room was ready for more and it felt like another twenty minutes would hardly have gone amiss. However, nobody could say they weren’t given value for money and I can’t wait for both to come back to Scotland again as soon as possible.