When I moved to London in ‘99, UK garage was the soundtrack to my uni years. It was partly fuelled by a flatmate who couldn’t get enough of it (you know who you are Ben!) and my budding career as a music journalist where I couldn’t escape those captivating 4x4s, baselines and honey-sweet vocalists if I tried (which I didn’t – Battle, Sorry and the Little Man remix were my jams, okay?!). Anyway, I say all that to commend DJ Spoony presents Garage Classical with the Ignition Orchestra at the Barbican – an epic, orchestral-led trip down memory lane, which did an absolute spot-on job paying homage to the surprisingly 25-year-old genre. It’s the second time the pioneering Dream Teem and Twice as Nice legend has put on one of these events, but judging by the brilliance of the proceedings it’s unlikely to be the last ( there’s already another one scheduled for December). Here are four things I loved about the night:
Locking down the world-renowned Barbican is no mean feat – nevermind for a nostalgic Saturday night rave ‘for the people dem’. But it couldn’t have been a more appropriate location for the garage-meets-classical mashup, expertly conducted by composer and conductor Katie Chatburn and hosted by Spoony (who did everything from work the turntables to playing the trombone!).
The Ignition Orchestra
I’ve seen a fair few orchestra collaborations in my time – Kanye West’s Late Orchestration at Abbey Road studios in 2006 is still my favourite –and over the past few years, there’s been a rising trend of gigs in the capital offering clever interpretations of classic hip-hop and R&B albums. Sure, it’s a bit gimmicky, but there’s nothing like watching a collective of gifted musicians breathe new life into your favourite tunes. The Ignition Orchestra (reppin’ for Manchester) was also made up of a young bunch of virtuosos who probably weren’t even born when UK garage was in full swing – not that it mattered. They were a joy to watch and played their parts beautifully.
Considering the ridiculous range and volume of a genre like UK garage, Spoony could’ve had an impossible task ahead of him. But there were some joints that were obvious contenders for the 20-song setlist (like Do You Really Like It, My Love and Gabriel to name but a few). There were also plenty of pleasant twists and turns, with instrumentals and a trio of backing vocalists shining as much as the various artist cameos (including Elizabeth Troy, Pied Piper, MC Neat, Lifford, Na-Na, MC Creed, So Solid and Kele Le Roc).
Put a bunch of old school garage heads in a room together, and what do you get? Pure euphoria and vibes on 100. People could hardly stay seated once their tune dropped – for obvious reasons!
The possibility for more
As mentioned, there were 20 songs on the setlist, but with that, a fair number of omissions – such as Ms Dynamite, Shola Ama, MJ Cole, Tina Moore, Monsta Boy, Lonyo, Shanks & Bigfoot, Craig David: the list goes on. But I can only imagine the next Garage Classical will fill in the blanks and then some with another night reminiscing over the good old days… booooooo!