Live: Rating Rock the Bells Sets From Slick Rick, Wu-Tang Clan, Lauryn Hill, A Tribe Called Quest, Snoop Dogg, and More
Wu-Tang Clan performing Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Live interpretation: 8/10
They must have really patched things up since--unlike the last time Wu rolled through--the eight remaining members were seriously performing as a unit. No fur-covered rock star posturing from Ghostface and Raekwon, no stage-hogging from Method Man. Boy Jones, ODB's first born son, filled in for the deceased legend, and was certainly the best dude to replace the irreplaceable, spazzing and rolling his eyes and diving into the crowd. Quoth Rae: "Just like his father! That's Scrappy-Doo right there!" Even solo tracks like Raekwon's "Ice Cream" and GZA's "Liquid Swords" seemed like team efforts. The only problems their 36 Chambers tracks suffered from a live setting is the same problem that Wu always has during live shows--too many voices at once and the sound system un able to handle the subtleties of a RZA production. But otherwise this was a lively, show-stopping chance to keep hope alive for a sixth classic LP.
Snoop Dogg performing Doggystyle
Live interpretation: 10/10
Despite a mild air of consternation about a West Coast dude headlining a rap festival in the city it was birthed, honestly, no one rose to the occasion like Snoop. He really seemed to have performed every second off Doggystyle, skits and all. He made brand new, pimptastic videos. He brought everyone--Kurupt, Daz Dillinger, Warren G, RBX, The Lady Of Rage in full afro-puff--save maybe the girls that sing the WBALLZ jingle. There was a giant dog mascot that pissed on a fire hydrant before "Gin & Juice." Dr. Dre showed up via video. There were puppets. There was a picnic table with 40 ounces for his whole crew to chill at. The table gave the illusion of being relaxed but was really an ingenious, super-professional way to showcase a relaxed album. Snoop was cool as a cucumber the entire time. He unironically referred to his set as "The Doggystyle experience" and it really felt like the EPCOT interpretation of a stoned classic. Kudos.
Oh yeah, Lauren Hill was there too
Ok, so yes this happened. Sorry to disappoint all you blog-readers but she didn't do anything crazy--she was usually somewhere between a bit frazzled, totally enraptured, kind of psyched, frustrated at mic feedback, and frantically flapping her arms to wave directions to her band. If you believe Twitter, her voice is shot (she did drop "To Zion" about an octave), but I think it's just gone from one type of beautiful to another type of beautiful--a little more rough around the edges, a little easier to crack in the romantic parts, and still enough to make Chris Rock look like he was gonna break down on the sidelines. And oh yeah, go see her because her arrangements are totally fucking bonkers now. The entire show, complete with eight-piece band, was majestic retro-future space-metal that could sit comfortably next to "Tangerine" on the Big Boi album, except jammed out into Bonnaroo-ready seven-minute extended jammage. "How Many Mics" was like Fishbone skank one minute and Chili Peppers aggro-funk the next. Hill injected Robert Plant screams in to "Zealots" and sprinted about like Karen O for "Fu-Gee-La." She brought out everyone for a hug and a wave--Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Chris Rock, Swizz Beatz, Jerry "Wonder" Duplessis, John Legend, and Jay-Z, looking mad "Beach Chair" in some cargo shorts. Hell, I'd say it was a triumphant comeback if Twitter opinions about her headbanger-ready arrangements weren't kind of mixed. Also she didn't show up for the D.C. show the next day, so who fucking knows.