NEW YORK, Aug 1 — Rap legends A Tribe Called Quest announced Sunday they were retiring — at least from playing their native New York — as they bid a poignant farewell to late member Phife Dawg.
The group — who, as hip-hop became mainstream in the 1990s, took the music on a more artistic, alternative path — had just reunited when it was shell-shocked last year by the death of Phife Dawg, a long-time diabetic, at age 45.
The surviving members, in one of a handful of shows since Phife’s passing, found an enthusiastic hometown crowd at the Panorama Music Festival where Phife was posthumously the star of the show.
Phife, whose real name was Malik Taylor, gazed down at the thousands of fans via an imposing picture of him on stage — where a single microphone symbolically stayed empty.
Rather than trying to replace Phife — whose snide one-liners complemented frontman Q-Tip to define the group’s sound — A Tribe Called Quest brought in Phife’s voice by recording.
Q-Tip — who knew Phife since they were children in Queens even though their professional relationship had rocky patches — told the crowd that Phife’s parents were in attendance and made a surprise announcement.
“This is our last show in New York as Tribe. We’ve got to honour our brother Phife,” said Q-Tip, who has gone on to a successful solo career.
The group’s last scheduled concert is in September in Britain.
Q-Tip has already said that A Tribe Called Quest’s last album, We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, would be its swan song.
Released eight months after Phife’s death, the album features his already-recorded vocals as well as appearances from artists ranging from pop superstar Elton John to acclaimed younger-generation rapper Kendrick Lamar.
A Tribe Called Quest closed its set with a track from the album, We The People..., a plea for a more inclusive America that sharply attacks President Donald Trump’s agenda.
Q-Tip led the diverse, fist-raising New York crowd in a chant, “We the people — We are equal!” As A Tribe Called Quest left the stage, smoke billowed through an opening near Phife’s heart on his portrait.
Dhani Harrison goes solo
Panorama, set on grassy Randall’s Island which lies in the rivers between Manhattan, Queens and The Bronx, was inaugurated last year by the organisers of California’s famed Coachella festival amid a boom in US live music.
Among the final day’s performers was Dhani Harrison, the rock guitarist inevitably known as the son of Beatles legend George Harrison, who put on one of the first shows of his new solo project.
Harrison, who will release his first solo album, IN///PARALLEL, on October 6, presented his new sound that takes the psychedelic band era as its root but updates it with the soaring whirls of indie rock.
All About Waiting, his first single from the album, brings layers of sonic texture to a classic rock chorus which erupts with hard-driving guitar and electronic backdrop.
Harrison, who sings and plays guitar and ukulele, earlier released albums with his band thenewno2 — which also showed an affinity for alternative rock, if of a lower-key variety.
Nine Inch Nails channels Bowie
The festival closed with Nine Inch Nails, architects of aggressive industrial rock popularised in the 1990s.
The group has seen a resurgence of creative energy, recently putting out its second EP in less than a year, Add Violence.
Frontman Trent Reznor, whose passion on stage is so palpable he appears to convulse in pain, dedicated a song to rock pioneer David Bowie, whom he described as a friend.
I Can’t Give Everything Away was the final track on Blackstar, Bowie’s last album released two days before his death in January 2016 from an undisclosed battle with cancer.
Bowie’s song struck many listeners for its undertones of both mystery and joy even as he knew he was dying.
Nine Inch Nails stripped the song back to a dark veneer, led not by Bowie’s celebration of guitars, saxophone and harmonica, but by a lonesome keyboard. — AFP