All Disco Must End In Broken Bones

[B]RUN DMC... that KITTY EMPIRE, she was a fan years ago, back when Run and co helped old fossils like Aerosmith. So how's she feeling at their gig? Pretty good actually...[/B]

There’s a revival going on. You can hear it in big beat records, and in the clubs, where a new generation of B-boys are spinning on their heads to tunes that last pounded out of boomboxes when they were in the womb. You can see it on the streets, too, where Adidas is kicking the butt of Nike in the leisurewear stakes. Old skool is back, and with it, the three men who helped found the establishment. “Who here was down with Run DMC before Jason Nevins?” enquires Joe ‘Run’ Simmons. Everyone hollers wildly in the affirmative. “Alright,” he grins, like a proud dad, and the entire Forum beams back. His kids are bobbing around at the back of the stage, attempting to breakdance. The vibe, it’s fair to say, is ecstatic.

Indeed, it’s probably impossible to be a true pop fan of a certain age and not to have been ‘down’ with Run DMC BN (Before Nevins). Run DMC firmly etched the hard man poses, devotional branding and injury-inducing neck jewellery of hip-hop into the consciousness of a generation. But they blazed that trail with storming tunes that felt as much like the best kind of pop music as they did an uncompromising slice of black culture. So tonight’s nostalgia trip is as much about the greatest hits of a bygone era as it is about the roots of hip-hop being dug up for a new audience. It’s as much about retro fun as keeping a certain kind of faith. Run DMC know this and play their twin roles of entertainers and grand old men of the mic to the hilt.

All decks blazing, Run lifts a big white trainer into the air, and we’re off: the [I]cri de coeur[/I] of ‘My Adidas’ tumbles into ‘It’s Like That’ with Jay dropping bits of that recent Jason Nevins revamp into the mix. “Everybody jump up!” instructs Run, as DMC darts around him. Everybody jumps up and down, forever. ‘It’s Tricky’ is unexpectedly soldered onto the end of ‘The Hit’, a waste of one of their finest ever three minutes. But they make up for it by playing ‘It’s Like That’ again, even louder, later on.

All this isn’t so much crowd-pleasing as the artiste and audience in symbiotic harmony. We want to hear ‘Walk This Way’, the remix that did for Aerosmith on a grand scale what Nevins did for Run DMC on a more modest one. They give it to us, with bells on; finishing each other’s lines like psychic twin testifiers. In turn, they command us to sing, [I]”Ooh! Whatcha gonna do?”[/I] We do, with gusto. They entreat us to wave our arms in the air, instruct us to make a peace sign and shout ‘peace’ on the count of three. Run’s a reverend, so even the security guards obey.

Later, DMC talks about the “vintage” new album they’re working on, and makes us all point at Jam Master Jay because they’re afraid he isn’t “feeling the love” behind the decks. Run calls the three under-sevens to the front of the stage for a turn on the mic. The eldest is pretty hot. This is pure, unabashed showmanship. But the stadium rap staples offered up don’t feel nearly as clichid as they would in less august hands; if anything, they feel good, revalidated by Run DMC’s dual status as old masters and hot pop property. Their rhymes still blister, their tunes blare out of decks and DATs with all the muscle of a rock band. Even Run’s brief God plug can’t mar an evening where the old sounds genuinely fresh again. Rarely has a revival felt so full of life.