Fresh off the bat, touring worldwide for his new album Nobody’s Smiling, Common was originally booked at the Albert Hall, having filled up venues from Paris and Amsterdam, to London and Bristol, but it was a late switch to the smaller Gorilla that mixed things up surprisingly at last minute. Now Manchester’s scene for music is pretty renowned, but with most of its current attention on the electronic side of music, its pull for hip hop is different. If you add that with little promotion, and his two recent albums haven’t done as well commercially as the previous efforts of say Be, Like Water For Chocolate, or Finding Forever, then the surprise switch for a change in venue isn’t as surprising when you think about it.
On the positive side, moving to Gorilla was better for Common’s fans, as it meant not only a closer and intimate performance from its lower stage, but it has a clearer sound system and was packed to the rafters.
When we arrived it was just before Common was about to hit the stage, backed up by two DJs, a keyboard player and a vocalist, when he finally walked out, it was to a very warm reception! With Gorillas sound being far clearer than the Albert Hall’s this was a good switch in the end, what would be muffled was now crystal and Common moved about the stage with confidence, spitting rhymes and words of motivation to the crowd.
When you have a catalogue spanning 10 albums and a whole bunch of hits, it’s obviously nigh on impossible to fit them all in, but Common did the job well playing newer slots from Nobody’s Smiling like ‘Kingdom’ and ‘Diamonds’ to the classics like ‘Go’ and ‘Southside’. Judging from the crowd’s reactions the older cuts were what people were there for, as fans sauntered around when ‘Diamonds’ was on, yet the difference was huge when Common stopped to speak about and thank his long-time producer/friend No ID, before breaking out ‘I Used To Love H.E.R.’ to epic roars from the crowd!
There was some touching moments in there too, his heart-felt mentions of the late J-Dilla and his interactions of when they first met through A Tribe Called Quest, before playing some of their cuts, to then Common laying out what was said between them when he found out Dilla was dying, emotional and pure reminiscing of the legendary influential producer that gave a surreal feeling throughout everyone.
From one moment a long time ago, to being completely in the moment at Gorilla, Common decided to break away from the sadness of the latter with some free-styling, which again completely turned the crowd and got them roaring through mentions of Manchester and punch lines of photos for Instagram. He wasn’t the only one to freestyle on the night either, his DJs took it back to the days of real beat matching and scratching through beat juggling tracks like ‘Billie Jean’ & ‘Ten Crack Commandments’ to thunderous applause.
Ending the night on a high after his encore, Common had achieved the opposite of his newest album’s title and it’s safe to say the crowd got what they wanted… the gig in the end was a great night for hip hop fans of all creeds.
Often mischievous, never normal, sometimes funny, can be found causing trouble, drinking rum or attempting adventures.