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16th May 2023

Live review: Madvillainy Reimagined

Fearing a bittersweet tribute act, ‘Madvillainy: reimagined’ instead offered a refreshing and charismatic live experience in Manchester’s Blues Kitchen.
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Live review: Madvillainy Reimagined

Madvillainy: Reimagined’ comes from a long history of tribute acts at the Blues Kitchen Manchester. I’d been to the venue for gigs, and club nights, but never for something of this sort, so I wasn’t too sure on what to expect.


Whilst some find the prospect of tribute acts exciting – a chance to see past famed musicians in a new, often more inexpensive, light – I struggle to find the appeal. If the aim of recorded music is to capture the essence of the live music, then holding a record sacrosanct to recreate live is surely misguided? At best, a music act whose purpose is this reverence of someone else’s past glories, reeks of sterility. At worst, the imitation ends up being closer to mockery. However, on this journey through (what could have been) Doomsday, I found not only wonderful things to say about ‘Madvillainy: Reimagined’ and the band that played, but also answers to the pertinent question – what makes a tribute act valuable?


The Blues Kitchen’s target demographic seem to be at the edgier quartile of Deansgate bar frequenters. Regardless, these twenty-something tech-workers who believe their interest in old-school NYC hip-hop somehow distinguish them from the other moustachioed carhartt-donning expats of almost-London, do make for polite company. Of course, it’s low-hanging fruit and altogether meaningless to poke fun at some hippies for having a good time to good music. In fairness, they absolutely were having a good time – it would be difficult to resist the sheer charisma of the band.


The palpable chemistry between the vocalists, Patterns’ own Mandeep the MC and guest the Repeat Beat Poet; the musicianship displayed by the incredible drum solos from Jack Robson; and the way Immanuel Simelane’s bass slap carried the beat throughout – the love this lot had for the music was clear to see. Crucially, it meant we were spared from poxy covers because they weren’t trying to be MF DOOM and Madlib onstage. The way they conveyed their love for this music wasn’t by copying their notes, but by remembering their attitudes – for example, Madlib’s artistry came from his creative use of sampling from classic jazz standards, and it was obvious the band had studied them. The rappers kept their English accent, and by Set 2, Mandeep had been incorporating some of the most awe-inspiring South-Asian inspired vocal-lines into the tunes. On talking to him I learnt this was part of a broader project, bringing this flavour to genres inexperienced to it. He explains his work with Daytimers collective, and I’m struck with how small this world of South Asian creatives trying to make it seems to be.


Hearing ‘swaravarasaigal’ on stage on Tamil New Year/Vaisakhi (April 14th), and hearing it be fused together so well also illustrated what makes live music so special. Like both jazz and hip-hop, the major forms of classical South Asian music (i.e. carnatic, qawaali, Hindustani) consider improvisation and its imperfect art as sacred. This conversation is the lifeblood of the music – and indeed, the synthesis of all three seemingly totally different languages of music felt profoundly spiritual at points. This kind of fusion had been something I’d been thinking about for years, but had never seen it done on such a subtle but impactful scale. A room of people lit flames in the air as instruments cut to silence, the room embellished only with ‘gamakas straight from my grandmother’s radio. It felt surreal.


I realise now that comparing a tribute act to an artist playing their own work is a futile task, and perhaps calling even the cringiest of tribute acts ‘not worthwhile’ misses the point of art, whose very nature doesn’t ‘need’ a point. Nonetheless, the audience and band experienced something thoroughly interesting, and I’m glad I came. ‘Madvillainy: Reimagined’, thank you for giving me faith in the value of a tribute act. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

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