OZOMATLI | 04.13.07 | LONDON
Ozomatli :: 04.13.07 :: Shepherd’s Bush Empire :: London, England
Opening act, Cultura Londres offered up a serviceable if not particularly exciting blend of Latin jazz infused hip-hop and soul. Singer and guitarist Angelita Jimenez had great range and her voice meshed well with the mix of instruments and samples, but MC Tiago’s rapping was muddled and incoherent. Perhaps this had to do with the sound at the Empire, or perhaps he was trying to sound like Andre 3000 and forgot that annunciation is an important skill to master before attempting vocal speed. No matter, they are a young band with potential and have time to develop better stage presence and a better stage show. Although it was fantastic to see some Brazilian capoeira dancing, the dancers seemed a bit awkward and ran out of moves too quickly, with a lot of starts and stops that killed the momentum. Perhaps I am vastly ignorant of that style of dance, but kicking and punching the air out of time to the backing band is more of a distraction than a welcome addition.
Bombastic opener “City of Angels,” from their new album Don’t Mess with the Dragon, gave MC Jabu an opportunity to show off his skilful rhyming over a dirty funk beat. This shifted into the driving percussion and salsa trumpet trilling of “Dos Cosas Ciertas,” which turned into a booty-shaking clap along.
It’s a fine balance between politics and partying, and it could be argued they sacrificed a bit of the former for the latter at this show. Yet, it is a welcome change to find a political band that chooses immense positivity over dour screeds. Their activist roots are still firmly intact, but they seem to have resolved themselves with the fact that having a good time is its own form of empowerment. After all, if we are still singing and dancing “The Man” hasn’t completely got us down. In that spirit, this show had a distinctive house party atmosphere. At one point, Jabu asked everyone to introduce themselves to the stranger next to them. I’ve heard bands make similar requests before, but I was pleasantly surprised that a London audience actually complied.
As per usual, Ozomatli ended the show by jumping into the audience and playing their way out into the street. I watched them disappear into the sea of faces chanting “Ozomatli ya se fue!” Security had long given up trying to keep people out of the aisles and just let everyone spill out of their seats, fated to eventually wander out into the street to face last trains home or search for a pub with a late license. For a few hours the Empire was turned into an East L.A. house party, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
JamBase | London
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