Being festival season, AMR has caught an awful lot of great gigs lately. Following on from the interview with the mash-up maestro Girl Talk, the following is a live review originally published by the delightful folks at Tone Deaf and is reproduced here for your reading goodness.
“Girl Talk! Girl Talk! Girl Talk!” People are chanting, youths are sweaty with anticipation, the acrid smell of dry smoke hangs in the air. No, it’s not the encore, it’s just the opening.
The frenzy that surrounds a typical Girl Talk show has taken on a near-mythical status, tales of topless crowd-surfing and wild dancing long into the night have been passed around in hushed, revered tones. The irony being that in the cross-over from his underground shows – small clubs, carparks, anything – that made the myth to the mainstream festival circuit (and headline shows such as tonight), his show has become more organised and methodical.
Transitioning to larger stages has meant a shift to a newer, more professional presentation. What it lacks in chaotic spontaneity (and consistent stage invaders) it makes up for with sheer spectacle. All the bells and whistles of his Big Day Out appearance squeezed into the Palace. It’s not long before the stage is swamped with a cavalcade of dancers armed with toilet paper cannons, the crowd peppered with confetti and every conceivable kind of balloon drop. Then there’s his monolithic light show, a huge bank of globes that spell out various buzz words – and that’s at its most subtle. At any one moment there’s multi-coloured spots with vivid, digitised graphics of everything from toy drummers to glowing skulls. The rainbow explosion when Crazy In Love drops alone would have some leaving tonight a minor epileptic.
Just as his music splices Top 40 singles with the dirtiest of rap spits, so too the visuals are a schizophrenic collision of cultural signifiers. The highlight of which is Three Six Mafia flaunting their love of ‘fellatio over fornication’ across Jessie’s Girl while a video of Pac-Man nom-noming for his life plays. If the internet were to come to life and perform a gig – Girl Talk would be it.
The mash-up phenomenon existed before mild-mannered Gregg Gillis came along, but his name has become synonymous with its popular dominance. It’s easy to see he’s not just another bedroom DJ splicing a musical Frankenstein for sheer novelty. Any old hack can merge foreign beats and genres to middling success, but it takes more than a grasp of Adobe Audition and a vast record collection to make Ludacris and Black Sabbath sound like age-old bedfellows. His mashing is a musical democracy in which music, the cool and kitsch alike, are united by the power of their hook. A place where Roger Sanchez and Kelly Clarkson get to rub shoulders in the same set as Nirvana and The Pixies; where Jay-Z’s Dirt Off Your Shoulder spearheads a rave, where four bars of Ace of Base are as likely to ignite the crowd as Daft Punk’s Around The World.
The peaks of his show are directly linked to these explosive moments of recognition. Tonight’s ninety minute mix-tape-come-dance-rave is punctuated by eruptions of applause, reckless dancing, and at least one full-lunged chorus of Livin’ On A Prayer. Then there’s the point where he flexes the call-and-response of Isley Brothers’ Shout for all its worth, or finishing the set with a firework shower to the soaring coda of November Rain.
The break-neck pace at with the riffs and beats fly past barely leaves time to over-think these OTT moments, but to do so rather misses the point. There is indeed something clinical about the way Gillis’ dissects tracks down to an exact science of minute sampling, but it’s a formula that has made him a household name to the iPod generation and one he could coast on, with its dazzling live show, for many more years without need to reinvent the wheel.
As Girl Talk, Gillis isn’t bogged down by music’s appropriate use (or even legal definitions) he just wants to put on the best part atmosphere imaginable. The punchline is, that at the heart of the madness – sticky sweating dancing against a sea of showering balloons and confetti – it is just one man, his deep love of music and a laptop.
Girl Talk - All Day by walt74