Concert review: Jurassic 5, Powerstation

By Chris Schulz

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Jurassic 5 reformed in 2013 and are in the middle of a world tour celebrating their 20th anniversary together. Photo/Getty
Jurassic 5 reformed in 2013 and are in the middle of a world tour celebrating their 20th anniversary together. Photo/Getty

It's not often you go to a hip-hop show these days and not a single swear word comes through the speakers.

But Jurassic 5 aren't your typical rap group. The Californian six-piece revel in throwback beats, communal rhyme schemes and the kind of summery vibe beloved of back-in-the-day groups like De La Soul, Jungle Brothers and A Tribe Called Quest.

Their sold out show at Auckland's Powerstation last night - their first in New Zealand since 2006, following their 2007 break-up and reunion at last year's Coachella festival - was a 90-minute trip through their very own hip-hop history.

Their mission statement came as the group's four MCs - Akil, Zaakir, Marc 7 and Chali 2na - rapped together perfectly in unison over the crackling piano lope of early highlight Concrete Schoolyard: "Let's take it back to the concrete streets, original beats with real live MCs."

Since reforming last year, Jurassic 5's show and setlist has become so perfectly paced, seamlessly mixing in medleys of songs from all four of their albums, it's hard to single out highlights.

But there were many: the still-brilliant all-in MC rap attack that opens Quality Control, Freedom's fist-in-the-air chorus, the whistle-along sample of early single Jayou, the full throttle throb of A Day at the Races, and the jazz-infused funk of Jurass Finish First and High Fidelity.

Best of all was the mid-set turntable display between their two DJs, as Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist used a variety of sample pads and vinyl gadgets to cut, scratch and battle each other. At one point, they recreated Baauer's Harlem Shake and Dead Prez' Hip-Hop from scratch. At another, Cut Chemist strapped on a turntable guitar while Nu-Mark donned a sample-pad vest made out of vinyl. Even that giant turntable in the middle of the stage got a work out.

It was, without question, the happiest hip-hop show the Powerstation has seen. There were no swear words, no drug references and not a single moment that could be labelled as gangster rap. Even a small scuffle in the front rows was dealt with smiles as the instigator was forced to sit out the show on a chair at the back of the stage.

Perhaps Jurassic 5 summed up the vibe best during the show's celebratory final song What's Golden. The chorus? All together now: "We're holding onto what's golden."

* Chali 2na is back in April for two solo show with the House of Vibe: April 23, The Studio, Auckland; April 24, Bar Bodega, Wellington.

Jurassic 5
Where: Powerstation, Auckland
When: Wednesday, March 26

* What did you think of the show? Post your comments below.

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