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Live Review: The Sugarhill Gang @ the Beat-Herder Festival (15/07/2017)

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The remaining members of The Sugarhill Gang performed on Beat-Herder’s main stage on Saturday evening alongside rap and hip-hop pioneers, and former members of The Furious Five, Melle Mel and Scorpio.

Master Gee took the lead in an energetic performance which saw a stage crowded with old school hip hop icons defying the ageing process.

(Photo by: Christopher Werrett https://www.cwphotographics.com/| © 2017 Duke Studioshttp://www.duke-studios.com/)

The Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 hit ‘Rappers Delight’ is of gargantuan importance in the history of rap and hip-hop and is widely regarded as the track that introduced rap to global, mass audiences. It was unsurprisingly at the heart of their show and they acknowledged their own place in the history books with a keen and repeated emphasis (absent from recorded versions,) on the lyric, “Now what you hear is not a test, I’m rapping to the beat”.

That record became the best-selling 12” of all time with over 15 million copies purchased globally. The amount of times they’ve had to perform it as a result is unimaginable, but admirably and importantly the verve and energy that made the hit so irresistible in 1979 was still there on a slightly overcast afternoon in Lancashire’s Ribble Valley.

Witnessing live performances of ‘Rappers Delight’ and ‘Apache’ from genre defining icons is something no one at Beat-Herder 2017 is likely to forget. Sadly though there was a stumbling block for the performance too…

The old complimentary cliché of an “all killer no filler” performance did not apply.  Sadly the set around ‘Apache’ and ‘Rappers Delight’ very much featured some of the proverbial “filler”. Maybe it’s me being cynical, but an extended section of crowd chat (in which nothing was really said at all,) rambled into an unremarkable half-baked cover medley and that conclusion to the set was deeply underwhelming.

Who wants to hear the Sugarhill Gang singing ‘Living on a Prayer’ over a simplistic beat? No one.

That said it’d be a challenge to find anyone who wouldn’t suffer through it to hear them at their age-defying, genre shaping best and overall it was the positives that shone through their performance.

It was surreal to see the cool, iconic and largely Bronx-born group stepping out onto Beat-Herder’s main stage but the disparity of the performers and their setting didn’t play on anyone’s mind for too long. It’s not often opportunities to see such a genre-defining band come along and that alone made their set a memorable one, despite the flaws though their energy made it a great one. 




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