Jack Peñate/Lethal Bizzle; Scala, London, Wednesday June 27
The hottest grime star of the moment meets the hottest troubadour and London melts in the clash of the shittest shirts
It’s not easy being grime kingpin Lethal Bizzle. First up, you write the greatest party grime track of all time – 2005’s ‘Pow! (Forward Riddim)’ – but it causes such carnage at clubs across the UK that management put up signs in DJ booths banning it. Then, in an attempt to impress some decaying old retired colonels, David Cameron pretty much goes and blames you for the last decade of UK gun crime. So then, out of the goodness of your heart, you turn up to the Comic Relief Top Of The Pops to do a live PA and Jeremy Clarkson introduces you as “Jizzy Tissue”. It’s enough to make you pack up your mic and walk away with your tail between your legs.
But Bizzle ain’t the sort to give up easily. If the UK pop mainstream can’t roll with grime, he’ll just have to find another way.
“Loooondon!” bellows Bizzle. And London goes, “Huh?” Dressed in retina-burning multicoloured sportswear, huge white sunglasses, and wearing a chain that suggests somewhere a castle is having trouble opening its portcullis, Bizzle is not your typical Wednesday night indie support slot fare. But if the first reaction to Bizzle is pure bewilderment, as ‘Bizzle Bizzle’ kicks in, you know it’s all going to make sense. Bizzle, you see, is nothing if not a showman. Pinging across the stage like a human pinball, propelled by red-hot snare cracks and bass that wobbles all but the most skintight of jeans, it’s Bizzle’s mission to convert this crowd – one head at a time.
And you know what? He’s got the ammunition. Grindie, thus far, has been what we’ll generously call a mixed bag, but there’s no doubting the moshpit effectiveness of ‘Babylon’s Burning The Ghetto’ – a crunk-punk rabble-rouser that takes potshots at Blair and David Cameron over a jagged cut-up of The Ruts’ 1977 reggae-punk classic ‘Babylon’s Burning’. Then, there’s just enough time for a quick history lesson – a run through the mighty, red-hot ‘Oi!’, a single from way back in 2002 when Lethal fronted proto-grime bruisers More Fire Crew, a rowdy take on ‘Pow!’ – and finally, a totally apeshit cover of House Of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’. Oh, sure, no-one’s ever going to mistake Bizzle for a street poet. It’s like he once saw Public Enemy and decided the cool one wasn’t the dude dropping revolutionary slogans, but the one in the red jumpsuit with the silly clock round his neck. But tonight confirms Bizzle is warm-up dynamite, the ultimate hype man. He’s just about to drop his album ‘Back To Bizznizz’ – complete with guest appearances by Kate Nash and Babyshambles – and head out on tour with Gallows. Quite simply, it’s going to destroy.
And then, there’s Jack Peñate. This week has been fucking crazy for Jack. Just 48 hours ago he charted at Number 2 in the midweeks, and ever since then he’s been shuttled from radio station to instore performance to backstage area like a real genuine pop star. And from his deadpan cover of Beats International’s ‘Dub Be Good To Me’ with the sly lyrical switch “This is Jack hot” to recent Top 10 single ‘Torn On The Platform’ tonight he goes a long way to prove he’s worthy of the hype. As the summer anthem rattles into life, like The Jam’s ‘Town Called Malice’ covered by wobble-limbed Welsh Elvis Shakin’ Stevens, the Scala erupts. Granted there’s nothing new here, not much of the now, and it feels like we’re just seconds away from a washboard solo. Maybe all these retro moves are just the natural bile reflex of a generation sick to death of the modern malaise of Blair, hoodies and Iraq, but there’s something complacent about a smart, sharp 21st century pop star that sounds like he remembers rationing. Even so, during the mass campfire moment of ‘Spit At Stars’ no-one’s worrying about that.
Bizzle is fast-becoming the hardest act in the world to follow, but Jack the lad’s handled it as he has all this current craziness, with a barrel full of tunes and a cheeky wink. Tonight two seemingly incompatible stars ascended simulateously.