How do you improve on arguably the most iconic hip-hop album of all time? Simple – just add a 9-piece orchestra. And have them supported by The Boston Shakers. That’s exactly what No Strings Attached have done, and tonight I am getting to witness the live orchestral rendition of Dr. Dre 2001 up close and personal at Liquid Room in Edinburgh.
The goodtime-loving support act, who are named after their most cherished cocktail shaker, burst into the hazy spotlights with immediate stage presence and the growing crowd are up for it from the get-go. Playing their party-pleasing hits All Out and my personal favourite Best Things from their recently launched debut EP, Wasted, the Scottish audience are loving them. Is this really just the warmup act?! I’ve been following the band for a while now, but even those in the dark about the charismatic sextet can’t help jumping along with the hardcore fans.
As the Boston boys (they’re actually based in Liverpool) wrap things up with a sublime musical amalgamation of rap-meets-blues-meets-rock, they get an almighty cheer from the packed-out crowd and wave us a heartfelt goodbye. I wouldn’t want to follow that. It’s like being Best Man at a wedding after the Groom has just made a killer speech. Trust me, I’ve been there.
As a huge hip-hop fan, and, if I’m honest, not the biggest orchestra enthusiast, I don’t know what to expect now. But what comes next blows my mind.
This is a small stage for a large orchestra and I wonder how they’ll cope; but this isn’t their first rodeo. As the introducing piano riff is played, I know this is going to be special. Except for the bandana-brandishing frontman (who plays two keyboards – sometimes simultaneously), the band look about as opposite to gangster rappers as you can get, dressed with casual style and proudly holding their diverse instruments, but they bring something special to this six-times-Platinum album.
I’m particularly impressed when Lexi P, the vocalist for The Boston Shakers comes out and raps for the whole album; I’m exhausted after just watching him perform the warm-up act. Lexi adds a touch of class when he notices a particularly die-hard fan in the front row who knows the lyrics to every track and hands him the mic for his 20 seconds of fame. The biggest cheer of the night comes for Still D.R.E., which sounds as if it was always meant to be played by an orchestra. And it turns out that it’s not just hits from the 2001 album that the freakishly talented musicians play. They cover a few of Dr. Dre west coast classics, with California Love sounding even better than the original. That’s right, I just said that.
As far as I know, Dr. Dre isn’t present tonight. But if he is, I’m sure he’s beyond proud.
To find out more and catch the tour, please visit their Facebook page.
Photographs by John Harfield