Egyptian Hip Hop: The Harley, Sheffield

How do you solve a problem like Egyptian Hip Hop? A band that confesses to not enjoy their own music, admit to being rubbish live, and never write two songs in the same vein are certainly a conundrum. Perhaps by looking at their citation of Ariel Pink as an influence we’ll glean info as to what makes them tick. But you feel that Egyptian Hip Hop lack the consistent identity that indelibly marks all of Pink’s songs, however varied they may be. A tough nut to crack, indeed.

But the 4 Mancunians are on course to emerge as the breakthrough act of the year, a position they wouldn’t occupy unless they had the tunes to back it up.

Tonight, they take to the stage as you would expect/hope a band in their enviable position to do; aloof and detached – allowing us a moment to admire their highly covetable fringes before launching into the first track wordlessly.

The crowd tonight at The Harley, Sheffield are probably all too aware of the ramshackle nature of the band and their performances, creating an atmosphere on nonchalant cynicism. Which understandably creates a slight air of tension between band and audience, which never quite goes away. A shame as throughout the set they demonstrate many glimpses of their genius.

Standout track ‘Heavenly’ best encapsulates the band’s youthful poignancy maxed out, Alex Hewett’s vocals lending real urgency to compliment sweet electronic riffs. Other moments that run it close for sheer quality is the tripping momentum of previous single ‘Wild Human Child’ and the compelling flexibility of new single ‘Moon Crooner’ – once they actually pull it together enough play the song. Longer, more confident numbers ditch the tentative electro for stomping repeated riffs, hypnotic and engaging. Cue multi-coloured mindwangs for all involved.

But then we get to the not so genius about the performance tonight. The band seem to want to vindicate claims about their poor live performances, which sees the aforementioned disastrous collapse of ‘Moon Crooner’ – leaving the song flat just when it should have got legs moving ecstatically and compulsively. One of the more bizarre decisions we witness (other than that of drunken revelers weeing in the smoking area) is when the band finishes the set without having included brilliant crowd-pleaser ‘Rad Pitt’. While there are question marks over the set list tonight and the way it lacks the consistency needed to gather momentum and truly seduce the crowd.

But these are just small complaints, almost non-issues, and at the end of the show we’re really left with the same opinion as we were at the start. That here is an outrageously talented band marred with a few small negatives, understandable at this tender stage of their career. Egyptian Hip Hop are a band that have a certain unexplainable excitement surrounding them, and when such small learning curves are behind them, expect them to reach astronomical heights.