Open Mike Eagle @ The Art School, Glasgow, 19 May
Open Mike Eagle and support acts Video Dave and All City Jimmy deliver a powerful, hilarious and wildly impressive night of hip-hop
Video Dave arrives with just a few dozen punters milling around, kicking off with the strongest of his three songs and its immacutely produced video accompaniment (he is a filmmaker, and a bunch of other things as he later shows in a "float graph". There's an easy rapport between Dave and the growing audience as he goes off on surreal tangents about his life as a reality TV producer, crashing into people that he's now legally obliged to endorse (with dancing) or his over the top, shameless self-promotion (which definitely shifted a few T-shirts). Music takes a backseat to the comedy here, but it's a great way to open a show.
All City Jimmy (fka Nocando), however, is all about his raps – delivering constant spitfire verses over driven electronic beats, or occasionally a cappella. His loose, drawling singing style might be an acquired taste, but his raw energy and charisma on stage are infectious. A lot of the tracks cover a range of dark, personal themes (the breakdown of relationships, racism, abuse etc), but there's a buoyancy and perseverance in ACJ's delivery that offsets the fatalistic subject matter, making the performance seem more like an exercise in catharsis, rather than just dank nihilism.
Open Mike Eagle finds the sweet spot between the extremes of tonight's openers, mixing a good deal of humour in with his slick, yet insightful raps. Armed with just a Midi-pad, a microphone and some killer slideshow videos, he makes it look easy throughout his brisk 50 minutes or so. Whether basking in the nostalgia of 95 Radios, standing his ground in the powerful Brick Body Complex or just throwing out some lines about Scotland and Irn-Bru, he's a magnetic presence, alternating between incisive earnestness and a deadpan goofiness, depending on the moment.
Microfiche and Dark Comedy Late Show appear near the end of the set, continuing a run of consistently excellent tracks that includes No Selling, Southside Eagle and Every Single Thing. It caps off a faultless set of performances, demonstrating that you don't need showy theatrics or self-aggrandising rhetoric (apart from @Video_Dave) to deliver a powerful, hilarious and wildly impressive night of hip-hop.