TZU @ The Gov, Adelaide (09/10/2005)

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Expecting to be greeted by a predominantly hip-hop crowd, Melbourne foursome TZU instead appeared as the strange meat in a Sunday night sandwich of rock and roll. Touring with The Vasco Era, TZU step onto a stage paved with rock sweat of the previous band, and I feel the crowd’s stiffness despite the groove. I get a call from my ex saying he’s going to gaol, so I miss the beginning of the first song. Back in I go and it seems the crowd is lubricating nicely as these charming boys ease in with their delightful rapport and delicious rapping style ’...for a second, just for a second.’ They are asking us for our time and far more inclined to give them it over my dodgy ex. Seduced by their spunky free-styling, cheeky stage presence and undeniable chemistry this is working for me. The two boys on vocals, Joelistics and Emseed, are clearly great friends, sharing a rapping style that is personable, conversational and believable. The other two of the TZU crew are Yeroc, who mixes and samples with raw spontaneity, and a rather tall cartoon like fellow in glasses and cap whose body barely moves but who scratches with surgical precision.

Suddenly, out come the guitars for some unexpected rock and roll. I get mildly anxious, wondering if they shouldn’t be sticking to what they do best, but they seamlessly and capably rock out with their unshakable hip-hop credentials intact. Mr mixer hops onto the drums, Joelstics straps on a bass and Emseed lets loose on rhythm guitar. Throughout this rock section, which they tell us is the first time they have done this, the boys indulge their penchant for blues and showcase their immense talent and versatility. Swapping instruments and vocals, mixing blues-rock with live drums, scratching, samples and mixing, they play with fun, funk and fervour. Joelistics plays piano at times almost reminiscent of Elton John, and both vocalists can sing enough to move and incite excitement, but to me they look trapped behind the instruments. In my opinion, their hip hop was being stifled by the rock and roll departure… albeit an understandable change of tact to reach The Vasco Era listeners. I find myself craving the return of their playful infectious chitchat rap and pelvic beats. Sure enough, the segue comes, taking us from a blues/rock croon, ’ I want more of your sweet ahaaa!” into a hip hop style version of the same song. The crowd and I bounce in satisfied agreement on their stylistic destination. The drummer returns to the mixer and some climactic hard-hitting samples and beats take the song to a soaring, bumping height.

These boys sure have a lot of energy and presence and their ease on stage relaxes the audience beautifully. Their impressive free-styling and harder beats whip the crowd into a climactic clapping frenzy and their own naturally rhythmic voices are enough to carry the audience’s energy when the beats subside. They are political (what self-respecting hip-hop crew isn’t?) cheeky, raw and spontaneous. Jeroc uses a drum pad so there are no loops, leaving him free to change the format according to the vibe, generating a flowing, organic sound that reacts to the atmosphere. The stage is their playground, inviting the audience to share in their stories and philosophies with joy and mischief.

I have seen TZU previously with their pure hip-hop show, and this was something else. More experimental and instrumental, this gig saw the boys pulling every trick out of their seemingly infinite bag. Being an firm believer of less being more, I felt that they spread themselves a little too thin, compromising their scrumptiously watchable rapport. By the end of the show however, the crowd had warmed to the TZU crew, and this critic found herself throwing her pen into the air with abandon. Join the boys in their lounge room of blue rock and contagious hip-hop lyrics and beats… you’ll feel right at home.

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