Review: Roots Manuva, Anson Rooms

February 4, 2012

At gigs, musicians on stage often dress for the weather outside rather than the usually sweltering conditions inside the venue.

Bristol on Friday evening was brutally cold with much misery for a stag do stumbling down Queen’s Road in Hawaiin hula get-up as gig-goers found their way to the back entrance of the Students Union building.

Inside the Anson Rooms, however, it may well have been Hawaii. And so we come to exhibit A, Rodney Smith, known worldwide as Roots Manuva, a British rapper who paved the way for the current generation of genre-bending hip hop stars, from Dizzee Rascal to Tinie Tempah.

In his long Barbour jacket, bowler hat and bow tie, he was certainly dressed for the weather, and he cut a dashing figure on stage, matched by his amiable persona.

If Roots Manuva has been an influence to our own home-grown stars, his own influences come from far and wide, much from his parents’ Jamaican upbringing before moving to south London.

His most recent album 4everevolution is the usual smorgasbord of styles, played on this tour by a gaggle of musicians on stage with him including a hyperactive guitar player, a female vocalist also controlling a range of electronic sounds, and two other rappers who occasionally took the plaudits as Rodney had a much-deserved rest.

For anyone who was still a bit cold, there was an early taste of some liver-shaking bass. Unfortunately, this was soon followed by sound problems that reduced one track to only a drum beat with no sound from the mikes.

Thankfully, the problems didn’t last long. Here We Go Again and Who Goes There? were two highlights from the new tracks, that bass continuing to reverberate and Roots Manuva’s thoughtful and poetic lyrics.

Rather than interspersing old work throughout the set, some of his best known songs including Witness (1 Hope) and Dreamy Days came all at once, the former dub heavy, the latter mellow, taking the tempo down a few notches before more new work and Bristol’s cold front once again hit.

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