Known as one of the most original hip-hop acts in the country, Glasgow’s Hector Bizerk are renowned for a kind of tribal intensity in their live performances, which has hopefully found its way up the road on this dreich Aberdeen evening.
First up in support are the Wood Burning Savages from Derry, whose sound is big and polished. They’re a bit like a rock ‘n’ roll laced Manic Street Preachers, which is a head scratcher for a hip-hop night, but they find an appreciative audience nonetheless.
Aberdeen’s Ill Collective are up next – four local lads who follow through with tight and confident rap. This is hip-hop with a North-East twang, featuring beats and rhymes born and bred in the tenements of Aberdeen. Halfway to the Highlands is an ode to the city they rightfully call ‘the palace of sin’, taking a depressingly honest look at the realities of living in an oil-rich city. All they’ve gotta do now is get comfortable in between songs, and they’ll be on the path to greatness.
From the first tune, Hector Bizerk MC Louie has the crowd under his thumb, controlling the room with his own style of confidence, swagger and sneer. This is genre-mashing Scottish rap, with a live band in tow. The performance is like a grand hip-hop spectacle, featuring not just the band members, but an entourage of live painting and breakdance as well. Song subjects span existential chemical-infused crises in festival loos, True Detective, and nights out where ‘it all goes horribly wrong ‘coz your friends are all dicks’.
But in those few seconds as a song comes to an end, a different side of Louie is revealed as a smile that speaks volumes passes over his face, giving a glimpse of a bloke on stage doing what he absolutely loves, and genuinely pleased that those in the crowd love it too. The hit of the night is Party at A&E, which the crowd dutifully join in on for the KRS-One appropriated call and response. Underpinning all this is Audrey Tait’s percussion – intelligent and on the mark (best heard in A Place Called Nowhere), and proving that yes, even a cowbell can be used in hip-hop.
Mid-way through the set Louie introduces a cover that the band had to pick for a recent radio appearance. Within a second of the song beginning the crowd recognise what it is, and bodies and booze begin to fly about the room. It’s not just any band who can pull off a successful cover of Blur’s Song Two, and when it’s over I’m convinced Bizerk could even teach the 90s veterans a thing or two about rock ‘n’ roll.
By the end of the set it feels more party than gig, we’re all in this together. Louie’s down amongst the crowd, flying a giant flag with the band’s logo, while the band play on. And the best thing about the end? The band finish their set on their last song – there’s no cringe-worthy encore pretence, they simply take a bow to a rapturous crowd.