This was one of those nights where I genuinely had no idea what to expect. Learning a couple of weeks before that Snoop Dogg was going to be in the country, (seemingly without the usual fanfare) and playing only three small venues.
My priority was simple: Put name down for a reviewer pass and hope for the best. Then discovering tickets were still available a week before the Birmingham gig, I forked out £80 for a couple just in case. Leaving me a whole week to try and work out why Snoop’s playing such a small venue? Why he’s playing in the first place and will he even be allowed into the country. As Superstar gigs go this ones far from the norm. There was virtually no publicity, no radio or television interviews and with only 12 days to promote the gig I’m not even sure it sold out. I have to admit, even afterwards whilst writing now it still doesn’t make sense…
Arriving in Digbeth nice and early to catch the much anticipated Maverick Sabre, reality suggests something big is actually going down and not just some wind-up or internet hoax. Joining the back of the queue half a mile from the front door, being interviewed by someone resembling one of the fit twins from Hi-de-Hi, having a Landan Rapper with Kid hair (of ‘Kid N Play’ fame) peddling demo cd’s and finally being searched by doormen (and lady) with metal detectors isn’t what I’m usually accustomed to when going to gigs.
Seated up in the balcony, I’ve a prime view of Maverick Sabre. Personally I don’t know too much about him although according to the Mrs “he’s ace! He looks and speaks like an Irish chav, but has a real soulful voice that you just don’t expect”. Disappointingly, from where I’m sat the sound was shoite (shit). I could make out the vocals, wonderful they were too. But musically there was just way too much bass, not a nice bass either. This was a loose, farty bass, sometimes resembling a Brainiacs brown noise experiment.
In the same way Adele (has) and Amy Winehouse (did) have amazing, unexpected voices so to does Maverick. If vocal comparisons are needed, the closest I can think of is Finley Quaye. Fortunately the sound did get better but by which time it was too late as the short set had virtually ended. As voices go, Maverick Sabre has a good future written all over it.
The Diary of Lee Hathaway.
Dear diary. It’s 21:00, the time Snoop’s due on stage. He’s not though, knowing he’s turned up hour and half late for gigs before I didn’t expect him to be. Still, I take comfort imagining him sat in his bus surrounded by strippers, supping on gin n juice and smoking Sticky Icky.
Dear diary. It’s 21:15, still no sign of Snoop. My bums beginning to get a bit numb but I’m now comforted and calmed by the strange herbal waft rising from the crowd squeezed onto the dance floor below.
The throne in the backdrop is a rather nice bright blue shade isn’t it? I wonder if it’s royal blue? Oooh look! Each of the 10 bullet holes surrounding the throne carries an image of all Snoops albums.
Dear diary. It’s now 21:40 and I think I hear boos starting to appear in the quiet bits between tracks. Just how much Pimpin and Gin N Juicin can one man do?
Dear diary. So he’s now an hour late, the video projector seems to be fucked, The biggest man I have ever seen is guarding the stage. Remember Whisper from Live and Let Die? This dude makes him look like Gary Coleman. Fuck this! I’m leaving…
Oh, there he is. Ok so he lopes on stage with a huge bling encrusted Snoop Dogg mic looking cool as fuck. The chav theme seems to be continuing with three brightly coloured adidas wearing, gold rope clad backing dancers. You know what? It seems me and the entire audience are sold. The sucka’s that we are.
Given the size of the venue I half expected this to be some kind of album promo gig and maybe, just maybe the old Dogg would play one or two classics. What I didn’t expect was one classic after another, after another. You name it, it was most probably there in amongst the never seen set list. Even his “new Shit” ‘Sweat’, the David Guetta collaboration had the crowd punching the air guided by Snoop displaying his most energetic part of the set.
Vocally, he’s on it with each smooth velvety word rolling perfectly off his tongue. As an act, it’s polished. Bouncing off each of the three backing rappers perfectly in time, it’s like a slick tag team rapping version of WWE.
The Tupac and Notorious B.I.G covers back-to-back I thought quite poignant given the ill history between them. And particularly the observed silence by the crowd during a cover of Hip-Hops most recent fallen star, Nate Dogg.
If there’s one song in the world that gets a crowd jumping it has to be ‘House of Pains — Jump’. If the audience was stoned, the sheer energy emitted during Jump was something else. If guessing which chemical substances were involved in the crowd reaction, weed would definitely be at the bottom of the list. The only Snoop song to come close to the same reaction would have to be ‘Who Am I (What’s My Name)?’
Try as I might I can’t really find one significant negative aspect (lateness aside). A live band would have been nice. One of the backing dancers could have looked less fierce and she could have had her weave sorted out. Although in defence, this was more than made up by the blonde shaking her booty as though it were a Weapon of Mass Destruction. Even the crowd were well up for it — in a good way. Being judgemental and going purely by image I thought the atmosphere may have been dark and moody – not a chance. 20 years ago a Snoop gig would have needed metal detectors; it seems these days the only real danger is having too much fun.
After a very short hour finished Snoop closed the show by declaring “I don’t care whether you’re big, small. What colour or race you are Snoop loves you all”.
Whether that holds true for the five ‘special’ girls invited back stage after the gig remains to be seen…
Review – Lee Hathaway
Photos – Steve Gerrard