Arrested Development: Astoria, London

THERE ARE THOSE amongst the hardcore rap community who think Arrested Development’s down home, rural southern porch-sitting image is a stereotyped one that will prove detrimental to the black community but I don’t think anyone present at this gig could accuse either their music or their show for being at all wack or below par as they literally tore the roof off the usually indified Astoria.

Forget puffa jackets, ski hats, hooded sweat shirts, Air Jordans and the like ‘cos A.D. ain’t about that. Were talking patchwork shirts, dungarees, bare feet, dreads and an energetic African dancer, a soul singer who can blow with the best of ’em, a live drummer, DJ, a large and in charge female mama rapper/vocalist and of course Speech himself, a hyperactive ball of energy with a message in his madness who came, saw and threw down.

Probably the most prominent influence A.D. wear proudly on their sleeves is that of Sly Stone and the combination of Sly like harmonica and thumping jeep beats on ‘Mama’s Always On Stage’ and the party jam, ‘Fishing For Religion’ meant that even before the singles were dropped the house was on its feet and dancing. Of course, when the likes of ‘Tennessee’, ‘People Everyday’, ‘Mr. Wendel’ and ‘Revolution’ thundered forth, the Astoria blew a fuse.

Whether the old, tunic bearing grey haired man in the group is just a prop or actually serves some kind of spiritual input, I’m not sure and even if the prop of a shovel that was briefly brought on stage prior to ‘Tennessee’ did give the production a temporarily amateur dramatic feel, Arrested Development put on one the best rap shows witnessed in the U.K. this year and that was a fact no one could deny.

© Jeff LorezBlues & Soul, 29 December 1992

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