The post-industrial, almost apocalyptic surroundings of a neglected warehouse ensures a ticket to Doom’s first trip to Manchester feels like an invitation to the masked super-villain’s underground lair.
The invitation, in reality, generates as much cynicism as it does excitement. The mask, persona, alter-egos and complex raps have taken Doom out of indie rap obscurity to cult status amongst hip hop aficionados. Despite the plaudits however, Doom has developed a reputation as a frustrating and inconsistent live performer.
Unlike the devilishly reliable comic book villains he’s aligned himself with Doom tends to turn up late, cut a grumpy, aloof figure on stage and rarely give up more than thirty minutes of his time. In addition, a whole host of dastardly bloggers would have you believe that most of the time you’re not even watching Doom. Daniel Dumile, apparently, choosing to lease his mask to any associate fancying a bit of hip-hop karaoke in front of thousands of people.
It all adds to the mystery and there’s an exciting uncertainty about how the night will progress. Hudson Mohawke and Jamie XX are dealt the enviable task of keeping the buzz sizzling. Hud Mo delivers generous slabs of big, fat, glossy electronica and dubstep, bouncing around the shell of this unique venue, rattling eardrums and unsettling bellies on their way.
Jamie XX’s set perhaps mirrors what we’ve seen of his personality so far. It’s low-key and tentative. It features none of the clichéd hip hop anthems that precede almost every hip hop gig across the world, which is perhaps a positive, but there’s nothing to raise the energy levels either. It’s clear, however, that he’s got a good ear for a tune, mixing in strangely appealing mainstream R&B with overlooked gems such as the original version of Notorious B.I.G’s ‘One More Chance’, when so many may have favoured it’s sugary remix.
The music is broken by the sounds of a deep, New York drawl coming from somewhere off-stage. Doom (looking less comic book villain, more overweight Dad wearing a fancy dress mask) bundles onto the stage alongside his hype man. Running through the seminal ‘All Caps’, his abstract wordplay weaves between lo-fi soul samples and dusty, grainy beats as heads nod, arms wave and mouths recite each complex, multi-syllabic sentence word for word.
Its clear Doom is in good spirits. There’s a smile creeping out from beneath the mask and despite the middle aged spread he bounces around the stage with gusto. Gazillion Ear and America’s Most Blunted get the warehouse jumping and the playful Hoe Cakes offers some light relief from the lyrical acrobatics.
Despite some of Doom’s tracks not translating well to a live environment, most heavy on substance but light on the rap-along factor, there’s no doubting his star quality and tonight represents a fine showcase of an impressive back catalogue. As the triumphant strings of ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ ring out over the crowd’s eerie ‘DOOM’ chant, its clear that on this occasion, at least, the hip hop enigma is certainly more hero than villain.
Words : Neil Dring
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All Interviews by Alex McCann unless otherwise stated
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