Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Snapshot Review: Big Boi @ 9:30 Club

Tonight Antwan Patton accomplished the impossible: he brought the usually inert DC concertgoer to life. For one sweaty hour at the 9:30 Club, bodies gyrated, hands swung high in the air, and the noses of the shorter among us spoke a silent "thank you" to the recent popularity of Old Spice. The not-quite-sold-out crowd (shame on you, DC) was a mix of frat boys, hipsters, stoners, and even a few hip hop fans. The only words of disappointment I heard at the end of the show were about its short length. Clearly, Big Boi didn't want to disrupt our sleep on a work night -- we were out by 10:40.

During the first third of the set, Big Boi and BlackOwned C-Bone (of Dungeon Family) ran through an extended medley of Outkast's greatest hits: among them "Rosa Parks," "So Fresh, So Clean," "Ms. Jackson," and "B.O.B." It was thrilling to hear some of the most spectacular rap music of the last 15 years performed back to back, yet the show began to sag under the weight of nostalgia. Kudos to Big Boi for shrewdly crafting the setlist. He got all the big hits out of the way before getting to the meat of the show, his solo material.

The evening's most welcome surprise was the crowd's reaction to Patton's new music. The ecstatic response that met the operatic choral hook of "General Patton" signaled we were all here for Big Boi, not Outkast. It spoke to the strength of his new album, or perhaps, more cynically, to André 3000's absence. Still, it's a strange day when "Shutterbugg" is received with more excitement than "Ms. Jackson."

Two highlights of the night. A few ladies from the audience were brought onstage to dance to three songs. At first, they awkwardly swayed in the wings, but as soon as Big Boi unleashed "The Way You Move," his great single from Speakerboxx, the ladies loosened up, and the stage began to resemble the loving misogyny of a good rap video. Later, C-Bone asked the crowd to throw him a bag of weed in honor of the next song, "Fo Yo Sorrows." His request was met halfway through, bringing the song to a hilarious halt.

It was strange to see Big Boi, an exemplar of his genre, and one-half of the one of the most successful rap groups ever, perform to a handful of die-hards. Yes, we showed him the love, and he responded in kind, but it was a scaled-down affair. It's tempting to fault the taste of the masses, those Philistines and fair-weather fans; after all, Lady Gaga sold-out the cavernous Verizon Center the night before. But tonight, a few hundred lucky individuals witnessed a remarkable hour of music in a small venue. So why am I grumbling?