Now, first and foremost, I want it to be clear that I do not attend rap shows on a regular basis. I am a fan of the genre, but on the whole, most rap shows aren't a big enough attraction for me to go out and spend my hard earned money on. The MC Paul Barman, on the other hand, is a different story. I happen to catch this overeducated lyrical stylist opening up for another band, and maybe it was the fact that that was one of the greatest shows I have ever been to, but I know it is worth my while to check him out. But anyways, this particular night the MC Paully B was returning home to New York City for a show at the Knitting Factory as his nationwide, headlining, club tour was drawing to an end, and I must say he managed to impress as usual.
Just a word or two about the openers, because that's about all they deserve. Sucka MCs only deserve a word or two because that's about all I caught of their set, so I can't say that much about them. All I managed to figure out was that they were 4 or 5 white guys rapping quite well together, and at the same time attempting to spread some Christmas cheer, but honestly I didn't catch enough of their set to form an opinion, but what I did see impressed me just enough to maybe go see them again. The next band to go on was the Whirlwind Heat. Now, I'm all for musical "revolutions" but this band was going a little, okay, a lot too far. Either that or they just weren't trying too hard. The Whirlwind Heat is three guys from Michigan (for those of you that don't know that's where the White Stripes are from, this comment will make complete sense in a minute) all dressed identically, and they consisted of only a drummer (who was actually extremely good), a bassist, and a lead singer playing some kind of a keyboard. Now I ask you, the reader, who does that remind you of? (hint: I already mentioned them) To add to the imitation of the current "garage-rock" movement the lead singer had the stage presence of Howlin' Pete from the Hives, and coincidently, maybe, the bassist had the exact same moves as the bassist from the Hives. I don't know but their entire set sounded completely derivative, and unimpressive because I had seen it all done before by five different bands. One of my friends noted that they thanked Jack White on their 7", yes, thanked him for giving them an outline on how to be a band.
Unfortunately, well after I decided that I had wasted enough of my quickly diminishing hearing on the openers the MC of the night finally made his way to the stage, preceded only by his DJ, Anna. Dressed in a tunic, Paul Barman proceeded to rap his way through his set, mixing a good variety of his older tracks, from his EP It's Very Stimulating, with cuts from his new album, Paulleluia!, and he even included the track that got him started "Housemate Troubles. " A good mix of songs always makes the night a little bit better for everyone. Please don't think that this was just your average set though. Paul Barman never does anything that can be considered "average."
Let me just give you some examples of how Paul Barman is one of the most talented, and underrated MCs on the scene today. While performing "I'm Freaking Aweseome", the MC not only dazzled the crowd through his lyrics, but he did it visually also. It is during this song that he picks a girl out of the audience, tells her that her name is now "Autumn" and proceeds to rap a song from her perspective, while he draws an almost dead on picture of her. (Please see the accompanying picture if that doesn't make much sense.) How many Jay-Zs or Nellys do you see doing that? Somehow I have a feeling Tupac might be able to pull it off, I mean how many artists do you know that can put out more posthumous albums with new material than when they were alive? So I think he could probably do this picture thing, but did he go to Brown and get a degree in Visual Arts? NO…Paul Barman did though.
The profound effect that the MC has on his listeners was also made very clear when, after about two tracks into his set, Paul picked up a piece of paper that read something like, "My girlfriend slept with my best friend about two months ago, and I have been rather depressed since then," which, who knows if this is serious or not, but it did conclude with, "Paul, you are my happy place. " I think that basically summed up the feelings of everyone in the audiance.
Tightly gripping his Poland Spring bottle for most of his set, Paul broke the mold of a regular MC and tried to kick a few tracks Roots style, and he incorporated a live instrument, a guitar played by his brother (don't quote me on that, but I'm almost damn sure that's who it was.) On Paul's most recent album he tried to experiment a little more with different musical styles, while still holding his rap roots, and that is what he was doing here, but it was his live show. Incorporating a little electric guitar into any rappers set has been done before, but how many have done it with an acoustic guitar?… and more than once a set no less? The correct answer is few, VERY few.
And finally, on to Paul's actual set. The MC managed to spread out his set over his short but diverse career, including most of his first EP, his new album, and even an extra special track that he hasn't included anywhere before. This elusive track was his antiwar protest song, called "Make No Mistake." Some of his other tracks that he performed, that have made their way to albums, were "Bleeding Brain Grow," "Anarchist Bookstore" (Part 1 and 2), as well as "Senioritis." Check out the accompanying photos to see pictures of the sing along cards used for "Cock Mobster," the B-52s reminiscent ditty, note the continued use of cute, female audience members. Paul closed his set with "The Joy of Your World," which then led into a free style where Paul took suggesting from the audience about topics, one of which was crinkling or folding, think about it, you'll get it.
All in all, the MC Paul Barman is one of the most unique artists I have ever seen live, and, as long as you understand what the hell is going on (read: listen to the lyrics) he could be the most talented individual you many never hear of.