MC Blance at Sneaky Pete’s 24/01/2023

There is no better venue to catch an up-and-coming artist than the iconic Sneaky Pete’s. I visited this Cowgate staple on Tuesday, January 24th to experience the live debut of Edinburgh based rapper MC Blance, supported by James Kennedy. I can count on one hand the number of gigs I’ve been to where it was the headliner’s first performance, but this was one of them. With that in mind, I went in with relatively low expectations – expectations that were shattered almost immediately.

Gigs at Sneaky Pete’s always feel like secret affairs because of the venue’s small size. This night was no different, but by the time the openers took to the stage, the venue was already almost half full and humming with anticipation. The opening act was singer-songwriter James Kennedy, supported by his band. Playing a mixture of originals and covers, Kennedy’s performance style was almost evocative of a young Elliott Smith. The folk-rock styling infused the bands covers of Coldplay, Kaiser Chiefs and Arctic Monkeys. Kennedy’s style meshed seamlessly with the source material lending a fun, folksy edge. The originals were also thoroughly enjoyable, and the band seemed note perfect. Overall, this was a solid opening act, although the crowd seemed a little lukewarm. This would not last.

By the time MC Blance took to the stage, Sneaky Pete’s was almost full. He was backed by a three piece band of bass, keys and drums, with Blance himself on guitar. He opened with his newest release, Swimming with the Sharks, and immediately the crowd was in the palm of his hand. Gripped by a sparse, punchy beat, Blance wasted no time exhibiting his rap chops, as well as flexing his vocal muscles in the melodic chorus (something that I always enjoy seeing from rappers). From this opening number, I could tell that MC Blance meant business. An articulate wordsmith, at once self-reverential and self-deprecating, Blance delivered on a lyrical level that was sonically balanced by his band. The crowd was loving it.

Unfortunately, technical issues emerged in the next number. Blance called for a halt during another original, St. Blance, because the drummer couldn’t hear his click track. Although Blance appeared a little thrown off by this, deciding to restart, I have to extend props to the bass player who refocused the energy by excitedly declaring that we’d get to hear St. Blance twice. If anything, this minor setback earned Blance more audience support than before.

The remainder of the set was free of issues, and we saw Blance and his band hit their stride. Playing almost a full set of originals (apart from a cover of Them Changes by Thundercat), the rapper went from strength to strength, performing originals like Sonder which featured guest vocals from singer-songwriter Misty-Jo; and Pull Up where Blance assumed his alter ego Sly Mick. By the end of the set the atmosphere in Sneaky Pete’s was absolutely electric. The undisputable highlight of the night was the encore performance of Blance’s pandemic anthem My Room. I was surprised and delighted by how many members of the audience knew the words and were able to rap along. The feedback of energy between performer and crowd was something I’ve never seen with such a new artist, let alone at their debut live show. I was unashamedly headbanging by the end.

Overall, this was one of the best live music gigs I’ve been to in a while, and a great way to kick off 2023. I am thoroughly impressed by Blance’s lyrical skills and flow, and his music translated to a live setting seamlessly. My advice: go listen to MC Blance on Spotify  – so you can say you liked him before he was cool.

by Freya Murray

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