Rubberbandits – The Academy, Dublin

Keeping live musical comedy fresh is a difficult art, and one not helped tonight by Rubberbandits support acts. The Limerick duo might (rightly) be credited as a hip-hop act – a fiercely inventive and technically proficient one they are, too – but the fact remains that most see them more as a really great bit of comedy. The darker side of Irish hip-hop in the form of Lethal Dialect, then, doesn’t really come off tonight, despite his obvious ability, a scenario not helped by a vocally-muffled sound set up. DJ Flip, the between-artist fluffer, meanwhile, performs a set riddled with 90s pop cliché plus a little added bass rhythm, and frankly calling his performance irritating is being polite.

While comedy without the musical aspect is a tough enough proposition, Rubberbandits requirement to play at least some of the hits hasn’t given the set even a hint of the stale quality you might expect. Tonight’s set up has plenty of familiar elements. There’s the whiplash-inducing rave-dance moves, the banter about their love of ‘gas cunts’ and Willie O’DJ’s fabulously moronic dirty-old-man act, yet this doesn’t feel at all like a joke to which we’ve heard the punch line.

They key seems to lie in actions rather than words. While ‘Spoiling Ivan’ is Rubberbandits’ only new release since we last caught them live, a backing video featuring some insane Irish dance during ‘Ba Mhaith Liom Bruion le D’Athair’ and some ridiculous DJ-table antics during ‘Spastic Hawk’ are just some of the stage-shows ample additions. The between-song battering handed out to Cork natives is a populist move in Dublin, but you could never accuse Rubberbandits of pandering to the masses. Between them, the video and the banter get grimaces as well as laughs; it wouldn’t be Rubberbandits if they didn’t.

Musically, things are phenomenally adept. The authenticity of the duos’ Limerick drawl has prompted plenty of speculation over the past couple of years, but real or not, the ability to perform the ridiculous accent on the word ‘Hawk’ from their recent slow-number is a wonderful piece of satirical silliness. There are elements of serious hip-hop style, as well, like in beat-heavy opener ‘Antney’s Eye’, or celebrity-bashing classic ‘Danny Dyer’ (now complete with his head spinning wildly in the backing video), both of which see the vocals doubled up to close lines against thumping backing beats. It might be pointedly silly, but that doesn’t mean Rubberbandits aren’t serious about their music.

Above all, though, tonight is an absolute laugh-riot. Glancing around The Academy, we catch more than a couple of quiet tears of laughter, aimed not at the well-publicized singles, but at the quieter numbers and the sparkling banter. The show isn’t for the easily affronted, but even having seen Rubberbandits half a dozen times over the past couple of years, they’ve succeeded in staying phenomenally fresh in the live arena. For a style of music that leans on its shock factor, that alone is a great achievement.

As published by AU Magazine, March 2012.

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