Grandmaster Flash – legendary, but not really that grand #berlin #grandmasterflash

Yesterday I went with my girlfriend to hear one of my all-time heroes, Grandmaster Flash, at Columbia Club here in Berlin - my first time in audience with the father of turntablism. It is hard to imagine what an immense impact Flash has had on contemporary music, but it is safe to say that it is enormous - given the fact that he was the one to come up with the idea to use a turntable as an instrument. Moreover, his performance skills, deck skills, rap and groundbreaking visual style back then has shaped much of what hip hop - and even mainstream music - is today.

Going to the concert, I was well aware that 1980 is a long time ago, and that Flash - despite looking really good - is not a 25-year old performer any more. With the development in turntablism since then, and the insane skills that turntable kids around the world have in 2009, I had no illusion of going to see state-of-the-art scratching, tricks or deck skills to compete with current standards. Grandmaster's needn't compete with that, they already showed everyone their supremacy.
Rather, I was expecting a Flash that would present us with an accumulation of his impressive life achievement in the shape of solid old-school scratches (I l-o-v-e that eighties stuff), confident entertainmentship and a reminiscent live performance walk through the great backcatalogue of his albums and the rap classics; Scorpio, Survival, White Lines, the timeless The Message and all the rest. Hell, just seeing the legend and hearing those tracks would've made my day - and much more than that.

However, I only got one of those three things; confident entertainmentship. Flash knows his way around a stage for sure. But to my great disappointment, Flash did not perform live - not at all (or, that is, he may have done so after 2 hours, when I had disappointedly left before the show ended - but I highly doubt that). Instead, he played a banal dj-set throwing on nothing but party chartoppers from the last 15 years of pop-hiphop top20-hits, garnered with some Michael Jackson tracks here and there - only briefly did he pay a sort of homage to New York as a cradle of hiphop, by playing a couple of Sugarhill Gang tracks (and that is no really a homage, is it?).
At one point, 4-5 songs into his set, he played one third of The Message, straight from the vinyl. No live raps, just the record with his own vocals on it. What's up with that? Also, in almost every track he killed the music and did the same crowd-hype routines ('I can't see your hands in the air, Berlin' and 'Berlin, somebody make some noise') until a point where it was beyond tiring. Crowd interaction is cool - and necessary - but to a certain extent and with variation. We're here to see you, man, and we would've cheered our throats sore every time you dropped another cool Flash-track. I was ready. But that never happened. Instead we were supposed to "screeeeeeeeam" every 30 seconds listening to humped-out tracks such Jump Around, The Next Episode, Work It. Dude, we've heard those tracks a gazzilion times! I paid to hear Flash! Not Flash playing mainstream-tracks from the box of cd's I put in the attic 5 years ago.
Lastly, his deck skills: Let me again emphasize that I had no expections of seeing a deck wizard of today's standards, but rather a solid turntablist - THE turntablist, the originator - who could fire up that early 1980's sound. Solid, cool and old school. But Flash, I'm sorry - what I saw was just too sloppy. Cutbacks are cool and all that, but they need to be tight and in a boring dj-set (at least for anyone who's into anything else that average John-doe party r'n'b hip hop club dj'ing) variation of tricks is essential. You're the father of turntablism, but even ninjas have to practice. Being legendary will get you a long way, but not all the way in full concert.

Here's my suggestion, if you're reading this, Flash: Stick to mixing interludes and instead put your co-dj, DJ Demo (he's cool), on more, grab the mic and let him drop those awesome instrumental Flash classics for you to give us that live performance that we know you used to do - and that we came to see. The stuff that made you a worldwide icon! Otherwise, let the poster state that this is a dj-performance, not a live concert.

Either way, nothing can change that you're still up there with my other all-time heroes and despite my criticism, it was great to have seen you, the legend, live. Thank you for that.

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  1. [...] var originalt. Dette var specielt Christian skuffet over – læs bl.a. på hans egen blog her. Men cool, det er Flash nu stadigvæk. Grandmaster Flash Grandmaster Flash Gransmaster Flash [...]

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