Arriving an hour and a half after the doors opened, the photographer and I couldn’t help but notice that there were about seven people in the club, the stage already adorned with a giant GLC banner bearing the slogan, “You knows it,” a slogan that succinctly sums up Goldie Lookin’ Chain’s entire persona.
Comprised of nine MCs from Wales, this group has often been accused of promoting “chav” culture – young people with a penchant for track suits, Burberry hats, and giant gold coin rings, often associated with drug use and violence. But while GLC will sport gold ropes and the occasional Adidas visor, it’s been pretty obvious from the beginning that the intentions of the band that penned Your Mother Has a Penis should be taken with a grain of salt.
While we waited, the opening DJ spun some decent material, with The Fugees’ Oh La La La making more than a few heads bounce. As the club began to fill, I noticed a lot more Puma, Nike and Adidas than I would normally see in Reykjavík. Even the photographer was wearing an Adidas tracksuit top that he had bought specifically for this show. Suddenly, and without warning, television personality and Eurovision hopeful Silvía Nótt took to the stage, prompting a mad rush to the front. After a brief and nervous introduction from Ms. Nótt, Goldie Lookin’ Chain came on stage with guns blazing.
What’s the worst part of being a hip-hop act with nine MCs? Unless you know how to work the crowd, you’re just nine guys with microphones. Not much to look at. Thankfully, GLC didn’t just stand there bobbing their heads.
They opened up with Shit to Me, a song that trashes a long list of female singers. The crowd numbered about a hundred people at this point. Despite the low attendance, GLC performed with the passion of a vaudeville act on opening night. Even if only two or three MCs were ever rapping at any given time, the silent members of the crew were constantly moving – dancing poorly, prat-falling, and, at one point, demonstrating hilariously incompetent break dancing. I half expected unicycles and seltzer bottles to get involved. Their image and their performance are so clearly satirical that the circus-like feel to the show was fitting: they are, in the end, professional clowns.
Not that everyone got the joke. A scan of the crowd showed most people having a genuinely good time, but there were a few people wearing their thug face – hoodies up, over low-brimmed baseball caps, hands buried deep in their front pockets, and generally trying their best to look like extras from the battle-rap scene in 8 Mile. This, of course, is a testament to GLC’s brilliance – even with the hilarity and inanity of titles like To the Five Valleys (a Welsh interpretation of the Beastie Boys’ To the Five Boroughs), there are still those that find this humour far too subtle for them. That GLC is often blamed for people taking them seriously is just as stupid as blaming Marilyn Manson for Columbine.
There was almost no between-song chatter, save for brief, clearly well-rehearsed dialogue to set-up a song. These exchanges (“Oi, Eggsy, I noticed you didn’t bring your missus up here to Iceland with you.” “I couldn’t. And you know why? Coz she’s a nutter.” – the set-up for none other than Your Missus Is a Nutter) also added to the vaudevillian feel of the show.
Of the nine, Eggsy was the strongest MC of the bunch that evening. He sounds a lot like Eazy-E, and employs the same staccato, but his delivery was intense. It seemed like every time he began rapping, especially during Roller Disco, a nostalgic piece about the 80s that involved a lot of really bad popping and roboting, the crowd’s response ratcheted up a notch.
Mystikal looked completely out of place in this group – the baseball cap, longish hair and full beard made him look more like the stand-in percussionist for Phish than a rapper. But when it came time for his solo, he proved an MC with presence and is also, according to the song in question, “the alchemist in Newport.” The references to South Wales were many.
And apart from an overly long and frankly painful solo from Maggot, the burlesque continued with great speed. The show reached a climax with 21 Ounces, the whole crowd gleefully singing the chorus, some people more seriously than others.
GLC definitely deserved credit for the enormous amount of energy they put into this show – most bands of their stature would have seen an empty club of barely 100 people and simply played by the numbers. But their boundless, non-stop energy was downright infectious and well appreciated. One Icelandic attendee I spoke to told me it was the best show he’d seen since Snoop Dogg this summer and 50 Cent the summer before.