Why? – Alopecia (2008)


The lively shuffle dance rousing from the first track, ‘The Vowels Part 2′, sends a static current through the Academy. The energy and verve magnifies and emits from the crowd, hollering each phrase as an echo machine back to the stage. It is crazy that frontman Jonathon Yoni Wolf’s monotone delivery, distinctive and fitting as it is, has the power to set the crowd alight into smiles and fist pumps. Why?’s music creates this excitement through its lyricism. A collage of metaphors, crafted couplets and images drafted into your mind’s eye. I don’t know how well the live set would be taken to the uninitiated or to those without prior knowledge of the album and the wondrous lyrical content within, due to the band’s passive stage presence. But the crowd knows every tongue twisting line at Club Academy this evening and the atmosphere is fantastic.

Tonight Why? are performing their seminal album, Alopecia, from 2008, in full for its ten-year anniversary. From the very start, the rendition is truly a second-for-second reproduction of the album. No time is spent for interludes and there is minimal crowd interaction. This isn’t a bad thing as no time is wasted from one track of vivid portraiture before delving into the next. Hearing the album brings me back to teenage years, rhyming along with the songs on a classic iPod Nano in the back of cars.

The bunched-up crowd brings me back to these cramped spaces too, but as I move to find a better spot I notice the venue is only half full, with people just wanting to be closer to the stage. Why? has a drawing presence. There is no pushing or shoving, but for me everybody is just too tall and I need a better view! So I move to the slightly raised area further back for the latter half of the show, but only after experiencing my favourite tracks ‘These Few Presidents’ and ‘The Fall of Mr Fifths’ within the depths of the singing-along crowd.

The album is enduring and clearly still holds a lasting resonance with everyone at Club Academy. Possibly still unlocking some of its beautifully cryptic lines such as “God put a song on my palm that you can’t read, I’ll be embalmed with it long before you see” from ‘Fatalist Palmistry’. Here’s to another 10 years of hip-hop poetry.

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