Mark Ronson & The Business INTL
About the Gig
At the tender age of 34, Mark Ronson seems to have achieved a huge amount. Grammy Awards, Brit Awards - international plaudits and recognition. Arguably, being the most in demand record producer in the world, you might have thought he would rest of his laurels. But that wouldn't be Mark Ronson.
After the huge success of 'Version' - it would have been very easy for Mark to make a soundalike record and doubtless hear the melodic chime of tills ringing across the globe. Instead, he chose the underground, venerable and heritage dripping 100 Club to unleash his latest project – Mark Ronson and The Business Intl – with a huge swerve of musical direction and sharp image change.
A rammed 100 Club saw Mark Ronson and band stroll onto the stage in one of the lowest key entrances a Subculture night has seen. No introduction - but perhaps none was needed. Straight into the instrumental 'Circuit Breaker' from the eagerly anticipated new album, 'Record Collection'. With an 16-bit delicious sound - drawing influences from 80s electronic games - setting the scene for a new musical direction on the album. The digital sound, acidic sharp outfits, LED and fluorescent tube lighting providing a striking juxtaposition to the gig worn 100 Club.
It would have been easy for Ronson to use the gig to just showcase his new material. But known as one of the most affable and amenable chaps in the music business - he didn't disappoint the competition winners and fans of 'Version'. Cue Rose Elinor Dougall straight into a superb rendition of the smash hit 'Oh My God'. Rose (perhaps best known for her outings with the Pipettes) was to feature heavily throughout the night, with her beguiling vocal and stage presence.
Powering straight into the latest hit single 'Bang, Bang, Bang' - electro rapper MDNR added a streetwise, ballsy New York edge to the building performance - ably backed up by SR. Ronson overseeing the growing ensemble from the back of the stage, like a super relaxed guiding force.
The ying yang between new material vs old material continued as Washington DC rapper Wale (discovered and signed by Ronson) whipped up the crowd with 'Ooh Wee'. Back to Rose and SR for 'Hey Boy' and 'Start / Stop / Synchro'. Almost a dizzying blur of talent assaulting the senses - taking in Mark giving one of his first live vocal performances - with aplomb. Quite a feat amongst the talent on stage.
Back to MDNR for the new track 'Sparrow' again setting out her marker as one of the most interesting and powerful female performers out there. Then onto Alex Greenwald (lead singer of Phantom Planet) to power out 'California' and 'Just' - both at the spine tingling end of the spectrum. Greenwald managing a stage dive and crowd surf to boot.
Greenwald in many ways summed up this performance. An ensemble of all the musical riches - always part of the whole - working in simpatico with the whole band. Almost quietly and respectfully waiting his turn and then - bang - when he stepped forward he commanded the whole stage and audience. What Ronson has achieved here, might take a while to get recognised as it is not just about big names but welding a huge amount of talent into one musical force. For a first gig - they carried it off incredibly well - because it must be a monumentally difficult task. One that will undoubtedly build into stunning live performances.
And then the encore... If the line up hadn't been stellar enough - adding Amy Winehouse for a rare live musical outing blew the bloody doors off. In truth - the thunder was slightly stolen by her brief appearances on stage prior to the encore. Which Ronson quipped about as he introduced her. Straight into 'Valerie' - crowd go mental and the genuine warmth from the crowd washes back over Winehouse as the audience celebrates one of Britain's greatest ever singers gracing the legendary 100 Club stage. Like Billie Holiday (who stood on that stage before her) she may battle her demons, but you can't deny the talent. Playing her part in the complex musical tableaux.
At that precise moment, The 100 Club was not only hosting the undeniable musical talent that is Mark Ronson - who defies classification; Amy Winehouse - one of the greatest vocal talents of our time; and Terry Hall - one of the great British songwriters and vocalists - who DJ'd the night, but also some of the freshest and dazzling young musical talent around. A perfect marriage of heritage and contemporary relevance.
Is that every likely to happen at the 100 Club again? Should Mark Ronson be proud? Yes.
'Record Collection' will be released in September 2010 on Columbia Records.
'Bang Bang Bang' sees Mark Ronson doing what he does best - smashing disparate genres and artists into each other headfirst, before standing back and admiring the controlled, party-starting chaos left behind.
Featuring the talents of Ronson's old mucker, rapper Q-Tip, as well as vocals from MNDR, who moonlights as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' live keyboard player, the first single from the Mid-Atlantic mastermind's new album 'Record Collection' - the follow up to 'Version', which went triple platinum in the UK - is a playground funk triumph.
Released through Columbia, it's a collaborative effort, with Ronson at the production helm.
The song was built using a classic Eighties Duran Duran keyboard idea ('Setting 32 on the Prophet V,' says this self-confessed trainspotter and crate-digger) and a version of French nursery rhyme Alouette (MNDR's idea). Add to this a writing contribution from Nick Hodgson of Kaiser Chiefs and ideas culled from Ronson's experiences touring the festival circuit and the result hangs - bangs - together brilliantly.
'When we played all those festivals in 2007, we'd end up in the dance tent. And I got so jealous when Justice or Soulwax or Pendulum would go into their double-time breaks, and all the kids would start jumping up and down. And we never had that tempo in our set. So I just wanted that in one of our songs' - Mark Ronson
Zane Lowe will be giving 'Bang Bang Bang' an exclusive first play on his Radio 1 show on Monday 24th May, while Ronson’s 16-bit styled instrumental 'Circuit Breaker' has already gone viral, getting the blogs burning like an aural Bunsen burner.
'Bang Bang Bang' - it's the kind of explosion you'll be more than happy to stand next to when it goes off.
...it ['Bang Bang Bang'] is a remarkable record. Funky as hell, but still moving. Immediate, and still a bit of a grower. Thoughtful lyrically, but kinda silly with it - and partially French, for extra je ne sais quoi. Relatively anonymous on first listen, especially to anyone expecting trumpets, but boasting the lizardy throat of Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, one of the most distinctive rap voices since Flavor Flav found a novel way to make sure he stopped being late for meetings.
(This is an amazing old school hip hop joke, by the way. The only reason you're not ROFLing right now is because you're not properly old school. Box-fresh, perhaps, but that is all.)
It's a perfect summation of Mark Ronson as a person, now I come to think about it. Someone who is equally comfortable with reserved, expressive European harmonic tradition (and indie music) as American funk. He even said as much, claiming to want to make this record a mix of Van Halen (the synths from 'Jump', not the widdly-widdly guitar) and the Meters.
And he gets extra points for the bit where he slips a little delay under Q-Tip just for the bit where he is rapping about living the "bon (bon) vie", so that it sounds a little like he's beatboxing. That's how you get your name at the top of the bill, producers!