Sometimes, it's just all about timing.
Most bank holiday Mondays in Newcastle promise an upbeat atmosphere, but on a day where rumours of a potential takeover for Newcastle United were running wilder than a milkshake down Nigel Farage’s suit, it’s fair to say Open Mike Eagle (@Mike_Eagle) couldn’t have timed his visit any better. Making the last stop on the UK leg of his European tour - before heading off to the Netherlands for two final shows - Eagle brought his unique brand of hip-hop to Think Tank? Newcastle on May 27th.
Now first off, big shoutout to Eagle’s support acts Video Dave (@Video_Dave) and All City Jimmy (@MCNocando) who delivered two thirty-minute sets that provided the perfect appetisers to loosen up the Geordie crowd. Both offered a talented trio of skills, with Video Dave’s brilliant combination of music, offbeat comedy and (surprise, surprise) video thoroughly entertaining the early crowd, while All City Jimmy’s big bass, beats and bars administered the perfect adrenaline rush to get the fans ready for their main event.
Stepping out to Think Tank?'s hundred-plus-strong crowd, Open Mike Eagle floated into the spotlight. Donning an All City Jimmy t-shirt, a fanny pack and his trademark necklace, he was ready to deliver the evening of laidback, introspective hip-hop that the northern crowd were highly anticipating.
Things got off to a staggered start, as half way through opening track ‘Big Pretty Bridges’, Eagle was experiencing microphone issues, but the technical trouble did little to harsh his unshakable mellow.
“And that’s the end of that song,” he joked, brushing off the little hiccup, before fixing his mic and moving effortlessly into ‘Every Single Thing’; immediately it became apparent that a plethora of pop culture visuals were to follow, as Video Dave projected a Super Mario Bros aesthetic behind Eagle to accompany the beat.
Gliding through downtempo tracks ’(How Could Anybody) Feel At Home’, ‘Microfiche’ and ‘Southside Eagle’, the Newcastle crowd had been drenched in Eagle’s mellifluous tones. Think Tank? had slowly become a bubble of tranquility, as a hundred heads nodded in silent approval.
The wrestling-inspired ’No Selling’ followed, the first of a quartet of tracks from Eagle’s 2017 album, ‘Brick Body Kids Still Daydream’. Unlike the title suggests, however, it was impossible not to sell your humble writer’s enjoyment when this one dropped, as Video Dave had somehow managed to penetrate an impenetrable WhatCulture Wrestling in-joke, projecting footage of office favourite Togi Makabe behind Eagle as he rapped.
Video Dave had told us in his opening set, ’I’m Video Dave, and I make it pop’ - turns out he was right!
The other three from the aforementioned quartet - ’Legendary Iron Hood’, ‘Brick Body Complex’ and ’95 Radios’ - came next, the former drawing on various images of Marvel’s Juggernaut (get it?) and the middle featuring a doctored ‘Hello My Name Is…’ name tag, emblazoned over Eagle’s shoulder as he rapped fervently about the importance of his identity. It was the latter, however, that contained the most fruitful audio/visual combination…
His rendition of ’95 Radios' brought with it familiar footage - from the streets of Newcastle - a freestyle rap all about his journey up from Leeds, a reference to hearing Sunderland’s defeat against Charlton on the radio (no prizes for guessing the cheer that one got) and even a nod to the rumoured takeover talk surrounding Newcastle’s beloved Toon Army.
Someone had been reading their ‘How To Make Friends In Newcastle’ handbook.
Tracks ‘Qualifiers’, ‘Eat Your Feelings’ and ‘The Processional’ picked up the pace, with Eagle’s lyrical mastery shining through as the 38-year old carved out his trademark brand of thought-provoking witticisms, while the north east crowd raised their hands at his beck and call.
But much like all great pros, no sooner had the Chicagoan elevated the energy in the room, he was disappearing backstage for a quick intermission, leaving his northern admirers wanting more. Fortunately for them, it wasn’t long before Eagle swiftly returned to deliver the encore.
‘Ziggy Starfish’ proved to be the highlight of the closing triple threat, as the surreal 1984 trailer for ‘The Brother From Another Planet’ played in the background, while fans chanted ‘A, N, X, I, O, U, S’ along with their conductor.
Eagle had taken Think Tank? up to a different wavelength, delivering what felt like the hardest-hitting track of the night, before signing off with ‘Very Much Money’ and ‘Dark Comedy Late Show’ to close out his set.