Live: B.o.B Covers MGMT, Regales Thoroughly Soused Masses At Irving Plaza
Every single person at this show was underage and/or drunk, present company excepted. Multiple amorous young couples took turns making out in various corners, opening act Yelawolf almost got himself arrested, a kid in an askew baseball cap shouted "YEAH THAT'S MY SHIT" during a hokey lite-rock jam called "Letters From Vietnam," B.o.B strummed an acoustic guitar frequently and crowd-surfed briefly, another kid in an askew baseball cap tried to get me to buy him a beer during that terrible song with Rivers Cuomo (not present), and the night ended with a peppy cover of MGMT's "Kids." I could really use a wish right now.
Your opening act is Atlanta's tremendously likable Playboy Tre, whose pre-recorded ad-libs ("NAAAAAAW!" "MAAAAAAAAN!") are almost better than his actual verses, and who threw out 15 minutes of drink-hoisting party-rap jams (he'll have a cranberry and cognac) before promising, "Hit me up on Twitter -- I will hit you back to-mother-fuckin'-night!" Verily, he was Tweeting up a storm by the time Yelawolf took the stage. Yelawolf, too, is pretty likable, though way more confrontational (still love "F.U.") and prone to ill-advisedly indulging his amorous urges. So he pulls a (very) young lass onstage, gyrates with her all through "Box Chevy Pt. 3," and later coaxes her and two friends back out for "Speak Her Sex," whereupon he urges them to hump the monitors: "Turn around! Put your ass on it! Not on me, the speaker!" When he pulls off his shirt to reveal myriad menacing tattoos it's less New Moon than Cape Fear. I begin working out the wording of my deposition just to save time.
What separates B.o.B from Jason Mraz is maybe a half-dozen semi-fierce, dexterous rap verses, the last remnants of his bizarre, stilted, mixtape-driven slog toward a stardom he seems to have finally achieved by expanding his sonic horizons (if you're charitable) and/or selling out (if you're not). This means lots of spirited but nonetheless lightweight soft-rock jams, sweetly strummed and proudly corny, and high-profile collaborations with r&b crooner Bruno Mars (still love "Nothin' on You," too), pop-punk goddess Hayley Williams, and, y'know, Rivers Cuomo, none of them present, none of them missed.
Meanwhile, "The Kids" borrows liberally from Vampire Weekend's bouncy "The Kids Don't Stand a Chance," and the kids love that, too. The songs where he complains about his burgeoning fame are tiresome in that distinctly Drakeian sort of way, but he's infinitely more comfortable with a full backing band than Drake, and does the rapper-turned-rock-star thing better than most. If one can be said to crowd-surf "credibly," he does it. And yes, MGMT's "Kids" as your final encore. Those guys were uptown at Radio City Music Hall, as you might've heard, and the implication here -- if it worked for them, and that's what it takes, then that's what I'll do -- is clear. You don't have to join him, and his alarmingly young/drunk cabal of alarmingly devoted fans, if you'd rather not. But that's where he intends to go.