A Tribe Called Quest kick it at Electric Picnic

Hip-hop icons sound as fresh as ever on the Main Stage, while Bill Bailey tackles the DUP

A Tribe Called Quest on the Main Stage at Electric Picnic. Photograph: Michael Donnelly

A Tribe Called Quest on the Main Stage at Electric Picnic. Photograph: Michael Donnelly

 

A Tribe Called Quest

Main Stage

****

Linden Boulevard saw the genesis. The funky road through Queens where A Tribe Called Quest first fused and their instinctive travels began.

More than 30 years and thousands of miles later, the group – minus fallen comrade Phife Dawg, who died last year – arrive in Stradbally, one of the last stops of their final tour. There’s just a few paragraphs to go now before Tribe’s story is complete for hip-hop scholars to study forever.

Watching Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi, as well as Consequence, a long-time Tribe ally, on-stage together feels like a miracle.

It was presumed the group would fossilise forever after the loss of Phife, only for their final album – and their first in almost two decades – We Got it From Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service to unexpectedly emerge last November.

So here they arrive, walking out on the Main Stage on Saturday night in respectful silence, pointing to the image of Phife that adorns the large screen.

Perched at his decks, Muhammad spins the opening organ chords of new track The Space Program. Phife’s voice can be heard via studio recordings, with the rest of the group filling in around his verses.

Oh My God is next, the throwback classic in which Phife famously announces himself as the “funky diabetic”, taking ownership of the disease that would later take his life. You’d be hard pressed to think of a one-two opening tribute more fitting.

Having contributed more vocals to Thank You For Your Service than to any other album, the newer cuts like Dis Generation are Jarobi’s chance to shine.

Nobody would argue that his flow is as satin-smooth as Tip’s, but the group brings such a breezy, pass-the-mic levity to their music that it doesn’t matter.

The slick grooves of older single Find My Way feature Phife’s melodic chorus croons echoing through the Laois rain. But the crowd has plenty of scope to turn up the energy during the set.

Q-Tip freestyles over Busta Rhymes’s Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check. Consequence surprisingly spits his verse from Kanye West’s Otis Redding-jacking classic Gone.

There’s beatboxing and an acapella performance courtesy of Phife’s classic playas’ anthem Butter, which sounds fresh as hell without accompaniment.

So many core elements of classic hip-hop are here, handled with care by some the culture’s greatest legends.

As ever, Tribe bring a deep-thinking political ripple to the night. Steve Biko (Stir It Up), their tribute to the anti-apartheid activist, is included. During The Space Program, Q-Tip asks: “You see what’s happening in the world?” Not much more needs to be said.

The energy is raised as Tip’s beatboxing turns into Bonita Applebum. Classic singles Electric Relaxation and Check the Rhime follow, before the group say goodnight. But the elephants in the room are far too big for this to be the end.

This crowd came to kick it with A Tribe Called Quest, and when Q-Tip returns to stage to ask their permission to do so, his request is granted. “Yes you can!”

Award Tour ignites the audience like nothing before it, sparking wet ‘n’ manic moshing throughout the crowd. But it’s closer We The People that proves the absolute showstopper. The performance becomes a bit ramshackle, with multiple re-starts, missed queues and dropped lyrics.

But it doesn’t matter a single per cent. The song sees the Irish Tricolour appear on screen with the words “We The People” and “We Are Equal” stamped on top. Tonight’s show acts as a rallying call to resist oppression, a tribute to a fallen hip-hop heavyweight and appreciation to everyone who helped Tribe along the way.

“Thank you for all the years,” yelled Q-Tip. “Thank you for a great career.” We should give them our thanks a million times over.

In three words: Forever kickin’ it

If you like this see: J Hus

Dean Van Nguyen

Bill Bailey

Comedy Tent

****

You can say this about the social-media hounded, baguette-eating, old leftie comedian Bill Bailey: he makes it all look so easy. Headlining the Comedy Tent at a music festival is always a tall order: the sonic overspill from nearby tents tends to drown the punchlines in bass lines.

But Bailey’s musical chops are equal to his comedic skills, meaning he will riff as brilliantly on a mandolin, or a Theremin, or a melodic drum, as he will on immediate concerns close to home.

The crowd erupts when he describes the DUP as “these creationist climate-denying freaks – these White Walkers! Nigel Dodds looks like Voldemort’s simple cousin.”

His material is a fluid medley of ironic outrage (“My local hospital is being closed down and replaced by an app!”) juxtaposed with a staggering fluency in music theory.

In a dazzling, Tom Lehrer-worthy display of musical satire, we hear the American anthem downshifted to an oddly chilling minor key. Later, he delivers an enchanting genre-hopping musical symphony, built around his counterpoint to the iPhone’s pre-set ringtone.

In both his throwaway gags and more considered routines, this freewheeling fun deftly smuggles in a political point. Bailey’s fetching revisions are a giddying invitation; to see things for what they are and to make them different.

In three words: Old leftie comedian

If you like this see: The Rubberbandits

Peter Crawley

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