fri 08/12/2023

Major Lazer, Roundhouse | reviews, news & interviews

Major Lazer, Roundhouse

Major Lazer, Roundhouse

Diplo and co bring the fun but not the excitement of their latest album

Major Lazer: Diplo, centre, with Jillionaire and Walshy Fire

It was a carnival-like atmosphere and a packed house for the transatlantic trendsetters Major Lazer in Camden. Recent show reports suggested a more maximal and bombastic vibe from Diplo and his current sidekicks Jillionaire and Walshy Fire, but while the addition of these two stalwarts of the Caribbean music scene would suggest that the show was to be a faithful homage to the vibes of a Kingston dancehall or Trinidadian J’ouvert, this was sadly not the case.

Support came from hometown hero Ms Dynamite, whose set was high on both energy and great songs. Crowd favourite "Wile Out" set the tone for the night, with an extended Junglist remix that had the crowd eating out of her highly manicured hand. Ms Dynamite’s own transition from rapper to dancehall MC echoes Diplo’s own progression towards the party-starting sounds coming out of the Caribbean, but not all are happy with this.

Tonight was more about the personalities up on the stage than the music

Recent grumbling from both the Caribbean and its diaspora worldwide that Major Lazer were appropriating dancehall culture for their own financial gain and personal success are not without merit. To be fair to the producers, however, they have helped popularise a niche sound that has never enjoyed true worldwide mainstream success - so it was puzzling to see how they had seemingly dropped the majority of the Bashment and Soca party antics from their set.

This is not to say that they did not impress, and to be fair to them the sight of one thousand plus people massacring the popular "Palance" dance from Trinidad, that involves the whole crowd dancing side to side in unison and numerous rewinds getting boos from the rabid crowd must be frustrating, so it makes sense that they have moved to more populist and traditional methods of keeping the party jumping.

It was other, more currently in vogue sounds that ruled the night. From drum and bass, trap and dubstep to the ubiquitous Harlem Shake, even the surprising (and slightly bewildering) inclusion of Nirvana’s classic "Smells like Teen Spirit" created an awkward, disjointed vibe, with their ADHD mixing style not helping matters. It is understandable that they want to have mass appeal, but it was unfortunately at the cost of momentum and vibes. Their own songs even seemed to take a back seat, but as the format of the show is more of a DJ set than traditional live show, this is to be expected.

Recent cuts from their Free the Universe LP sounded heavy, with special mention going out to "Watch Out For This (Bumaye)" featuring the irrepressible Busy Signal and the anthemic Get Free featuring Amber of the Dirty Projectors. But tonight was more about the personalities up on the stage, waving flags and commanding the crowd to remove their clothing and jump up and down, than the music itself, and while this was huge fun for the receptive crowd, it sadly lacked the excitement that their recorded music elicits.

It is understandable that they want to have mass appeal, but it was unfortunately at the cost of momentum and vibes


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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