Run The Jewels
The o2 Academy, Birmingham
EL-P and Killer Mike celebrate Run The Jewels most successful year to date. Christopher Lloyd went along to review.
2017 has been a benchmark year for Run The Jewels. Hot on the release of their RTJIII album, Killer Mike and EL-P have spent the majority of the year touring their biggest album to date and stole the show with their Jeremy Corbyn introduced set at Glastonbury. With such a triumphant year under their belt, it was inevitable that their winter dates were going to be nothing short of celebratory.
Kicking off the night was Detroit’s Danny Brown, who performed forty minutes of material that played chronologically from the straight up hip-hop stylings of his debut, right through to the frankly astonishingly fresh and avant-garde sounds of his latest album Atrocity Exhibition which was tellingly released here in the UK by Warp records. Be it though his work, or his association with Run The Jewels (he makes a cameo on RTJIII), there was a massive section of the crowd there who rapped along with every word of the set, making the standard support slot feel as though it was a full-on headline set, one which the Run The Jewels may have a hard time to top.
Unless you are Queen (the Freddie years, naturally) arriving onstage to We Are The Champions is always a risky move, but it was a note perfect way to start a set that was solid RTJ gold.
Kicking off the set with Talk To Me, EL-P, Killer Mike and their DJ Mr. Trakstar transformed a medium sized venue in the middle of Britain into a wall-to-wall house party. Tracks landed thick and fast, each one like a sonically loving punch to the throat. Call Ticketron took it’s twisted take on those 1990’s James Brown sampling hip-hop classics, whilst Close Your Eyes And Count To Fuck saw the crowd go ballistic to the recorded samples by unofficial RTJ member and former Rage Against The Machine vocalist Zack De La Rocha.
It wasn’t all about the music though, EL-P and Killer Mike have massive stage presence thanks to their totally down to earth, funny nature, for example, Killer Mike referring to the balcony as the over 35’s section: “Don’t think that’s a bad thing, if we were at a RTJ gig, we’d be up there watching it with you. You did you’re jumping up and down shit at those classic 90’s gigs”, or the tongue firmly in cheek spoken word section by EL-P, these are performers who bounce off one another so well as you can clearly see the love they hold for one-another, and it’s infectious.
Before they broke into the set highlight Down, a rare track in the RTJ cannon as it almost plays like a ballad, Killer Mike made an impassioned and tearful speech about the recent death of his mother and how it has affected his mental health, telling us that nobody should be ashamed to seek help from friends, family, or mental health professionals. In some hands this kind of speech could’ve seemed a little calculated, but the truth of Killer Mike’s speech was absolutely plain to see, it was brutally honest and totally as important as any of the music that the group so fantastically performed throughout the set.
The evening finished with a gift, a Christmas gift to be precise. It’s almost the festive season so it would be a no-brainer for RTJ to leave with A Christmas Fucking Miracle, and this is exactly what they do, and as with the rest of the set, the crowd responded as rapturously as a seven year old unwrapping a Nintendo on Xmas day. You cannot ask any more from a gig than that.
Words by Christopher Lloyd, Photograph by Emma Barton. You can read more of Christopher’s writing at his author’s archive