Upon arriving to the pleasingly bare-bones venue that is Village Underground, I and many other attendees were slightly dismayed to find out that DOOM was not to be appearing on stage till two in the morning! Grumbling and the gnashing of teeth was heard as those rapidly filling the venue bunkered down to enjoy the evening of hip-hop that had been laid out us to ease the waiting.

First up were the only 'band' of the evening: Lazy Habits. The band featured a strong rhythm section and energetic horns as well as a DJ who didn't seem to add much aside from record scratches. Their strength comes from the sheer energy of their music and how tight and well drilled it manages to be despite this energy. The front two added to this with their fast paced rapping but in truth they were not the focus for me. I could barely make out what they were saying. Speed rapping is very impressive and all but it's not the best for clarity. I was thoroughly enjoying the group until they brought on a beat-boxer to get the crowd going. While he was extremely impressive, he was essentially just a man who able imitate a band with his mouth. I'll take the real thing over the imitation. It was also bizarre having him on stage, making drum noises, while the group already had two real drummers on stage! That said, Lazy Habits were an excellent start to the evening.

Kidkenival was next up, his bass driven instrumental hip-hop booming around the rapidly filling room. Nobody seemed especially in the mood to pay him much attention yet but he did his best anyway and I must say I enjoyed his output. It seemed rhythmic and danceable while still retaining a textual depth that kept it interesting for grumpy loners such as myself. However the arrival of somebody to watch, such as Rodney P was welcome. The London hip-hop stalwart was on good form and while his particular styling aren't massively to my taste, I have to admit that he has a excellent stage presence and is a great entertainer. He seem genuinely thrilled to be on stage and the audience was more than happy to indulge him.

After a brief set from his unnamed DJ Thunderbird Gerard took to the stage. His fast paced flow and music certainly had some strength to it but there was something here missing. Maybe his voice was just two low in the mix or he lacked the real quality to completely dominate a venue. It was not for want of trying that Thunderbird Gerard fell somewhat flat, he moved about enough on stage and genuinely seemed to be giving it his all, but he just couldn't seem to conjure up and real magic. I do not feel this is the fault of the quality of his music, or any real lacking to him as a performer but there was clearly something missing tonight.

A brief solo set from the excellent DJ Mr. Thing was next but he was soon joined on stage by Essa (Aka Yungun). Initially I failed to warm to the duo but the combination of Mr. Things excellent 'old-school' DJing and Essa's sheer attitude was enough to win me over. Certain moments in the set, namely the quiet more poetics turns in the music fell more flat, the crowd were clearly looking for something they could dance to. Essa has a static but engaging stage presence and this can carry a lacking song and as such his fairly long set was rarely boring and usually entertaining.

Kutmah did his best to keep an increasingly restless crowd happy as the arrival of DOOM became imminent but it quickly became clear that he was fighting a losing battle. Towards the end of his sets impatient chants of “DOOOOOOM” were heard (this sounds uncannily like booing). He put on a good show but to be honest nobody was interested in listening to him and he was seemingly regardless as another obstacle in the way of the man we'd been waiting a good four hours to see.

Finally then, 20 minutes late, DOOM appeared on stage. What followed was a set full of classic songs mixed with newer material from the JJ DOOM project. I cannot fault DOOM's onstage behaviour. He interacted with the crowd, energetically running from person to person while never stopping his ominous flow. I also cannot fault the setlist, everything that should have been played was, he went on for almost an hour and never acted as if he didn't want to be on stage. He was also definitely actually there, which made for a nice change from his recent activities, and yet, something was missing. In part the backing track wasn't played loud enough leaving the whole performance sounding a bit lacking and unsubstantial. But ultimately the reason for doom falling a little flat was the crowd. At the beginning of the night the room was packed full, but as soon as DOOM hit the stage it gradually emptied. I feel this was firstly due to him playing far too late, people had buses to catch and many clearly looked tired. Secondly it was difficult for him to live up to expectations, we'd been waiting all night for him and he'd been hyped to oblivion. If he was anything less than hip-hop Jesus there were going to be a couple of disappointed people. Finally I think the much of the crowd weren't really interested in hearing DOOM rap, they just wanted to see him, and his mask, so that they could say they had seen a hip-hop legend in the flesh. This done, and mission accomplished they were happy to head home. What could DOOM add to a live performance that he couldn't do on record?

This, for me, ruined what could have been a great gig. While DOOM did his best, showing a genuine warmth for those at the front it was obviously clear to him that people were leaving and his performance lost a bit of momentum and heart towards the end. A definite shame but I thoroughly enjoyed what I was able to take from his performance and I was left with no doubt that DOOM is a very able live act, given the right conditions, and in every way warrants his reputation.