Australian hip-hop royalty Happiness n Eso gave their Brisbane fans a unique show with the Brisbane Symphony Orchestra at Fortitude Music Room Friday, June 17. The highly anticipated special event was part of the Strings tied concert series and saw award-winning multi-platinum trio ARIA backed by a 35-piece orchestra to bring their cinematic music to life.
The night started with DJ Total Eclipse (The X-Ecutioners) occupying the decks forward with a Dr.Dre mashup to get people in the mood. NT native rapper birdz took the stage with hypeman Fred Leon soon after and captivated audiences. A customary acknowledgment of the traditional owners of the land launched in the politically charged “Aussie Aussie”, and the inspirational chant “Know Your Truth” became a crowd favourite. The socially conscious songs featured his versatile flow of tight bars and melodic hooks bolstered by a bold production of Trials (half of Aboriginal).
After a half-hour intermission, the Brisbane Symphony Orchestra – along with a drummer, guitarist and two vocalists – took their positions to cheers. Lit only by the room’s two chandeliers, they sat expectantly until the final album’s short film The sun played on the bottom. Finally, Happiness n Eso emerged in black and white costume with Guy Fawkes masks to a roar from the crowd as the orchestra played the start of the album opener “The Prophecy”. The vibe in the room was electric and you could tell everyone was there for the time of their lives.
The eclectic set began with a string rendition of ‘Believe’ before ‘Act Your Age’ – it was a brilliant moment to see people rapping about shitting in a bath and smoking a joint at an event official. The slower-paced show gave BnE the chance to tell stories about each song before simply launching into these, the most poignant of which was the unexpected “Bullet and a Target.” Phone lights lit up the room for ‘Dopamine’ and fan favorite ‘Eye of the Storm’ before DJ Izm descended up front to sing ‘Friend Like You’.
Charlie Chaplin’s final speech the great dictator superimposed with images from the war in Ukraine led to “Pale Blue Dot”. After the song ended, the rappers appeared on the mezzanine floor (right next to this writer!) to perform “Reflections” surrounded by singing fans. They returned to the stage for the triumphant “I Am Somebody,” then toned things down for the Wholesome “Moments,” followed by the iconic “The Sea is Rising” and instant classic “OG’s.” The two left the stage before returning with an encore of the uplifting “My Life” and timeless hit “Addicted,” with Izm spreading the brand mantra of peace, love and unity.
All in all, the unique event was nothing short of spectacular and is part of the history books. Throughout the set, Bliss n Eso mentioned that they had been working on an album of string performances for four years and that performing with an orchestra was a lifelong goal for the trio. The night reinforced the idea that dreams come true, so remember: if your luck is low, just know that your wings are real!
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