Live Review: Ghostface Killah, Pharoahe Monch, The Tongue, Soul Benefits

23 December 2014 | 12:57 pm | Eliza Goetze

Ghostface Killah was good, but Pharoahe Monch was equally intoxicating at the Metro.

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As The Tongue so succinctly put it in his call-out to fans the day before the Block Party, “Forget the bullshit of this week and come get involved.”

That was the vibe at the Metro on Thursday after a dark week for Sydneysiders. The beauty of hip hop is that it can be as much about a good time as it can be political, and there were times when this party reached a perfect balance.

Soul Benefits kicked off the party with old-school beats and harmonies backing some tight raps between Storme, 26th Letter and Young Supreme, who were clearly having a ball – the “SB sound” they exalt in Get Down is definitely a sound all its own.

The Tongue took the stage with authority, spitting out upbeat anthems like The Punch and Australian Dreaming, with some impressive freestyling backed by DJ Skoob that added a harder edge alluding to the terror of the week’s earlier events.

But Pharoahe Monch was undoubtedly the standout of the night. “How many free people we got in Sydney tonight?” he asked the crowd. From 2011’s W.A.R. to this year’s critically acclaimed PTSD, a grimier, darker offering, he shone, enthralling the crowd – which at one point clapped rapidly to provide a stark backing beat for his intense flow – and urging the room to unite. “We see what’s going on over here in Sydney, we got CNN,” Monch told the audience. “I don’t know if you see what’s going on over there in my country – fuck the police. The violence has got to stop.” His set was littered with dramatic vignettes portraying a traumatised soldier, Monch’s face frequently pained, at one point shooting himself with a water pistol. But alongside serious tracks like Broken Again“She rescued me, my heroine to the end/But then she morphed into heroin in a syringe” – and Heroin Addict were odes of defiance like The Life and Let’s Go, all delivered with an intoxicating mix of precision and raw emotion.

Ghostface Killah had the crowd on a high but without his Wu-Tang Clan, he sometimes lurched almost into self-parody. Anyone can fill a set with a million call-and-response “hey! oh!”s – tonight we just had the pleasure of a legend doing it for us. But the audience enjoyed themselves nonetheless, hands high in the air for tracks from his new record, 36 Seasons, as well as old favourites like Shimmy Shimmy Ya. Girls leapt on stage to dance and one lucky punter rapped a verse face to face with the Killah – a collective letting off of steam that everybody needed.