By Ashley Zimmerman
By Dana Krangel
By John Hood
By Ashley Zimmerman
By David Von Bader
By Sayre Berman
By Steve Brennan
By Ashley Zimmerman
Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek immediately broke down the barrier between crowd and performers by demanding the few kids present get out of their chairs and crowd the stage. It worked -- within a few songs, the arena shifted into high gear as Kweli barked, "I'm upset. There's nobody here. Who the fuck promoted this?" He had a point -- the concert seemed to be reliant on word of mouth alone.
Kweli, best known for his outstanding 1999 Black Star release with Mos Def, performed much of that record. He's unveiling his new Train of Thought album this month, and if the concert was any indication, it'll be a militant, uncompromising, and challenging work.
Pharoahe Monch, formerly of Organized Konfusion, busted rapid-fire raps and even some quickly phrased reggae toasting. The band's awesome new album, Internal Affairs, is a case in point. "Are you ready for some real hip-hop?" we were asked again and again, but unlike Eminem or his ilk, the Spitkicker posse actually delivered, with no media hype needed to back it up.
Biz Markie, the infamous turntable maestro, kicked it old-school and back again with a seamless set of oldies and a detour into '70s sitcom themes (Good Times, The Jeffersons) followed by a Bob Marley sing-along set that plastered smiles on the crowd. Cameras flashed as Markie took his shirt off, moving the fader with his big ol' belly and showing off his formidable man-boobies.
Common -- the Chicago rapper formerly known as Common Sense -- just about stole the show with his series of "Traveling Through Time" vignettes. He came out dressed as a '70s funkateer with a feather boa, a disco pimp-playa, an '80s b-boy complete with mawkish break dancing, and his usual, track-suited, down-to-earth persona.
De La Soul, which had its day in the sun 11 years ago and has never been able to recapture that early success, was content to reheat leftover hits and foist lesser-known new tunes on the crowd. For these reasons De La Soul seemed tired and almost dinosaurlike in comparison with the rest of the bill. And it would be great if hip-hop could change its ubiquitous concert mendacity and do away with the tired "put your hands in the air and wave 'em like you just don't care" exhortations. But beyond that, Spitkicker, showcasing hip-hop's jump into the future, was an unmitigated, if underground, success.
Go ahead and laugh, but that was a graying Bandwidth at the Kansas/Yes concert Tuesday, August 1, at MARS. Truth be known, one of the first 45s I ever owned was Kansas' "Carry On Wayward Son," and one of the first records I ever heard was Yes' Close to the Edge album. (That would explain a lot, huh?)
So nostalgia was in the air as Yes opened its show with the 25-minute title track to that 1972 opus, followed by the rarely heard, long-winded 1974 epics "Gates of Delirium" and "Ritual" -- each of which stretched past the half-hour mark. Think what you will, but Yes -- when not caught up in close-harmony madrigals -- is a monster instrumentally. The rhythm section of Bill Bruford's complex, intricate drumming and Chris Squire's precisely picked bass has much to do with why Yes is one of the few progressive rock bands to make it through three decades and proceed into the fourth.
If you're wondering about Kansas let's just say the sing-along, lighters-aloft encore of "Dust in the Wind" was a '70s memory I didn't need to recall.
Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny has some balls. OK, it doesn't take balls to insult Kenny G -- my mom does it all the time -- but the following has to be one of the best attacks on the dentist-office-waiting-room-jazz-lite-sax-monkey to date.
During a recent Polish television special, Metheny told a group of kids they'd become better citizens by digging legends like John Coltrane and despising Kenny G and all he stands for. "Kenny G plays the dumbest music on the planet," he said, adding that "all the 8- to 11-year[-old] kids on the planet already intrinsically know that."
He also skewered Kenny G's album, Classics in the Key of G -- in particular the song "What a Wonderful World," a digitally doctored duet with jazz legend Louis Armstrong. Metheny called the song "musical necrophilia. Kenny G has created a new low point in modern culture, something that we all should be totally embarrassed about -- and afraid of."
Metheny even stepped to the plate and delivered this threat: "Everything I said here is exactly the same as what I would say to Gorelick [G's last name] if I ever saw him in person. And if I ever DO see him anywhere, at any function -- he WILL get a piece of my mind and maybe a guitar wrapped around his head." Metheny holds 13 Grammy Awards for his instrumental works. Kenny has one.