Scroobius Pip’s roots are in spoken word, a fact that should be obvious from his astoundingly insightful and often challenging lyrics which are the strength of his (perhaps more familiar) musical career. Pip has a great love of language - that’s a given - so much so that this thirteen-date Spoken Word Tour is “just for fun,” a long-time personal project spurred on to becoming reality by an unexpectedly large and enthralled four-thousand-strong crowd at Latitude earlier this year.
Scroob it seems has had a lot of fun putting this tour together, not only doing it in his month off from his normal work, but running his own merch stall and chatting to fans. He’s picked some impressive support acts from the spoken word scene too, and it all makes for a relaxed and convivial atmosphere.
Tonight at Leeds’ Brudenell, Kate Tempest opens proceedings, as she will be doing throughout the tour. Kate is an astounding spoken word poet slash rapper in her own right, having fronted Sound of Rum and won acclaim throughout the spoken word scene, and she’s met with rapturous applause from a packed house before she’s even started. Her rhymes flow with incredible passion and rhythm as she describes life’s trials, tribulations and inspirations with her wise and witty words, delivered with such animation she’s a joy to watch as well as breathtaking to listen to.
Polarbear, another massive name on the scene, is next to take the stage, his character-centred rhymes cleverly crafted and often hilarious. He finishes his set along with Kate in a “spoken word mix-tape,” the pair alternating their pieces and finally performing a rough-around-the-edges spoken duet finale which is a complete delight.
After the break, Pip takes to the stage with an unexpected lip-synched rendition of Disney’s ‘Duck Tales’ theme, putting the entire audience in fits of laughter as we join in with the words we manage to remember. He then proceeds to explain how distracting the sound of camera shutters can be for performers and still in silly mode, throws us some poses from his set so we can all get some good shots of him. Then bam, it’s straight into ‘Magician’s Assistant’, one of his starkly powerful poems about self harm and suicide, and as we cheer him at the end he jokes about how quickly he’s changed the tone. Scroob’s clearly in conversational mode, as dry and irreverent as you’d expect, perhaps lubricated a little by his trademark bottle of rose, about whose label we end up having a surreal debate.
He casually delivers some of his better known pieces from ‘Angles’ and ‘Distraction Pieces’, as well as his debut album ‘No Commercial Breaks’ (a re-release of which is planned, complete with bonus live spoken word CD), and what he described as his only lighthearted poem ‘Rick’s Café Americain’. He performs ‘Angles’ with the now-familiar headwear changes as he speaks each character’s part. Despite the lyrics being familiar to fans, his unaccompanied delivery is more storylike, more thoughtful, much starker, bleak and provocatively uncomfortable than the version we may be used to hearing on record. But somehow it feels like this is the way it’s meant to be heard.
Scroobius Pip’s work as spoken word is a complete treat, the sociable atmosphere contrasting with the incredible words and skill of all the performers. Probably the best use of Pip’s month off work anyone could come up with.
Words by Elly Oracle
Photos by Danny Payne