Shlomo – Mouthtronica Live Review @ Royal Festival Hall, December 2011

Posted: December 24, 2011 in Comedy, Music, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A few days ago, I manged to pick up a last minute ticket (from Last Minute Dot Com – duhhh) to see the UK’s foremost Jewish Beatboxer, Shlomo.

Staged in Waterloo’s Royal Festival Hall (in the smaller Purcell Room mind, he’s not that big!), in a seated only venue, it was not the traditional atmosphere for a beatboxing set. Having watched the show however, it was perfectly suited to this particular beatboxer.

Personally, my lasting impression of the show is that is seemed very, very middle class. Now maybe that says more about my own particular standpoint than the actual show, or maybe it’s a combination of the location and crowd (there was a couple approaching their 50’s who were proper feeling it. They were bopping their heads and tapping their knees the whole way through, especially during the Dubstep tunes!) Shlomo certainly embraces this representation though, bolstering it with a somewhat geeky dress sense in thick glasses and a spiffing jumper, and awkward Napoleon Dynamite-esque movements on stage. He wasn’t helped by a late collaboration with 2 time Vauxhall UK Beatbox Champion Reeps One whose style and flow made him look all the more poncy. The duet was apparently unplanned, which Shlomo chose to describe as “organic, dahhrllinng”. Ok, so I may have ad libbed the last bit.

Despite how negative the last paragraph sounds, it must be said that I don’t feel this ‘middle class’ representation really damaged the show. There is no question that Shlomo is an extremely talented beat boxer. He has a very developed ability but so much greater is the creativity he displays. Throughout the show he dropped various different musical styles, ascending the brassy heights of Jazz down to the bassy depths of Dubstep. He also delivered some impressive covers, including the Jackson 5 classic ‘I Want You Back’ and the Eurythmics ‘Sweet dreams’. Each cover was delightfully varied and executed with a panache that ensures he will not be forgotten any time soon. He even brought with him  some kind of mini harp, which he twanged alongside some breathy beatboxing. The most impressive element in my opinion though, was a discussion of how much bass effect is lost through the throat when beatboxing. To remedy this, Shlomo took out a second mic and placing it to his throat managed to capture a powerful bass sound whilst dropping a melody with his lips and tongue. Absolutely jaw dropping.

Perhaps most noteworthy is that Mouthtronica was not just a beatbox set, instead forming an introduction to beatboxing and the techniques used. Shlomo opened the show discussing the 10 factors that combine to create a beatbox, including teeth, lips, loopstations and crowd participation. The latter two were used particularly well. As a World Loopstation Champion (a fact he regularly reiterated to the crowd), Shlomo is well suited to demonstrating the artful use of this technology. Throughout the show, he layered samples of his own voice using a loopstation, creating entire songs with a real depth of character. At one point he recorded some voice samples from audience members in the front row, and at another the cheers and claps of the crowd, using them both to create interesting tunes.

You see, Shlomo’s show was much more than just a simple beatboxing set, in fact in places it had the character of an interesting, musical lecture. Unfortunately though, a simple beatboxing set was what I hoping for. I expected a raucous, booze fuelled crowd, dancing the night away. Instead it was a much more civilised affair. The most disappointing part of the evening was the length. It was only a lacklustre hour show, for £30! Luckily we managed to get 50% off on Last Minute. Unluckily for Shlomo, this strict time frame meant that his show was scrutinised far more.

In Mouthtronica, Shlomo demonstrated that he attempts to be much more than a beatboxer. He introduces himself very much as a comedian and a story teller, both of which he is successful at…. for the most part. It’s just that with a show so short I would rather hear another few tracks instead of listening to you tell a dreary story about how you used to belly dance for your extended family as a child. I applaud the premise, in wanting to offer an all round entertainment show, one which seeks to engage those that aren’t necessarily into hiphop or beatboxing – a goal he clearly achieved. It’s just that by diluting his show in this way, Shlomo has only served to alienate those that are there for the core reason: the music.

Shlomo: He’s a Beardyman for the middle classes. Talented, articulate, with a smashing cardi. For me, the night was epitomised by the Jeffrey/Christine Archer-alikes bopping away and although I shared no affinity with them, they were bloody hilarious. Huzzah!

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