Mark Stewart at Scala – activist or musician?
The age-old question: when should a performer hang up his (or her) boots and call it a day? Mark Stewart’s performance at London’s Scala on Wednesday night, March 28, proved that over thirty years on, it is possible to still go strong.
With Nick Cave referring to him as “the man that changed everything”, Stewart is arguably one of the most influential people in the music industry. A key figure in the 80s’ punk scene, the Bristol-born musician paved the way for a proliferation of bands whose music dealt with issues concerning politics and consumer apathy. Currently promoting his new album The Politics of Envy, he performed a number of newly written tracks brimming with references to recent riots and modern-day capitalism.
Stewart’s presence was electrifying. Throughout his set, he danced around the stage in a wild and erratic manner. Stewart knew his fans would be there, applauding and adoring every moment of the show. A giant screen behind him showed Barack Obama’s head pasted onto a dancing naked cowboy. While this is an example of his nonchalant attitude to the establishment, it also represents his stylistic inclinations towards the notion of montage. Over the course of the night, he used samples from a wide range of music genres including Reggae, Hip-Hop and Dubstep.
Despite Stewart’s charisma, there were moments when his act seemed a little dated. Rather than watching a musician famous for pushing boundaries, it sometimes felt as if you were in a time warp – especially when he played songs from his back catalogue. Even when he performed his recent song about the G8 riots Carlo Giuliani, with Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillispie, the incessant air punching while chanting the words “keeping the dream alive” was cringe-worthy and embarrassingly idealistic.
At times, Stewart’s performance seemed vain and self-indulgent. However, it brought to the fore the notion of what it means to conscribe to Punk and anti-establishment principles in this day and age, without appearing naïve or preachy. At a time when government cuts and parliamentary policies create a culture of tension and hostility, perhaps a ring-leader like Stewart is exactly what we need.
For more information on Mark Stewart, click here.