As I walked past the babbling brook by the path from the parking lot to the ticket booth, I could hear the high pitched screams of females in the crowd. The object of the crowd’s loud affection was R&B singer Miguel, a pretty boy with a pretty voice who has enjoyed a lot of radio play for his first few singles. During his performance of the latest of those radio hits, “Quickie”, Miguel led a sing-along with the crowd, who eagerly belted out “I don’t wanna be loved, I don’t wanna be loved,” in unison. I like this song, and often even if it’s a song I don’t particularly care for, there’s usually something moving about that many people singing together. This time, not so much. Miguel’s band was excellent, exaggerating the start-and-stop movement of the “Quickie” beat. Live, Miguel’s voice is wonderful and he is an engaging performer. Near the end of the set, he sang/adlibbed, “Would you dance on the tip of my tongue baby?” Cue girls screaming. Next, he continued the raunchiness by singing, “Take your panties off. Take your f***ing panties off.” Who said romance was dead?
Wale took the stage shortly after Miguel and band vacated it. Wale’s stage set-up was decidedly the most “hip-hop” of the night—just a DJ and hypeman/singer on stage with him, with no backdrop or frills. (No good lighting, for that matter, which made capturing decent photos of him a bit challenging.) Also no-frills is Wale’s persona on stage. Just a man and his mic, he moved from one side of the stage to another, danced (maybe “bopped” would be a more accurate description) a little here and there, smiled I think two or three times, but poured most of his efforts into just delivering his lyrics. Being at this concert made me realize how popular Wale really is. Although he wasn’t the headliner, the crowd—average age of 20 if I had to guess—seemed to know every word to every song. Highlights for me included “Chillin’”, “That Way”, and “Pretty Girls”. Black Cobain joined Wale on stage for “4 A.M.”. His presence was applauded by the crowd, and his energy on stage was cool, but it sounded to me like he might have been rapping over a vocal track. (I could be wrong, but that’s what it sounded like.) For all its simplicity, Wale’s set was marked by a true connection to the fans, especially when he handed his chain to someone on stage then jumped into the crowd with his cordless mic to perform “Nike Boots”.
While on stage, Wale said that four years ago, he was a student at Bowie State going to see Lupe Fiasco perform at the 9:30 Club. On this night, he was opening for the headliner at a big outdoor venue. Pretty cool. At this point, I feel I have to admit two things: I also did not realize how popular Lupe was and I have never been much of a fan of his music. I can see why people like him, and he’s a talented artist, but I have never really connected to his music on any level. Having said that, he put on an excellent show.
In stark comparison to Wale’s bare bones stage and show, Lupe’s stage was filled with background singers, musicians (drummer, keyboardist, bassist, guitarist, and a violinist), and a humongous anarchy A at the back. (A quick google search on Lupe and anarchy reveals a lot of speculation about Lupe’s stance on anarchy, but nothing substantive.) Lupe bounded onto the stage like a whirling dervish. Well, maybe not whirling, but leaping at the very least. Throughout the course of his set, he gave it every last bit of his all. It was almost theatrical in setting and performance, but with more connection to the crowd. Everything Lupe gave to the crowd, he got back from them. His band was good, but a veered a little close to adult contemporary territory now and again. Their rendition of “Kick Push” was pretty straight ahead and I can totally respect that—sometimes it’s a little annoying when people change up their most well known songs too much. (Maybe that’s just me.) “Hip Hop Saved My Life” elicited probably the most impassioned audience response of the evening, with several young men near me rapping along like they wrote the song themselves.
Neither here nor there:
- When I went to pick up my ticket and photo pass, I stood and stared at the young guy working at will call for at least one full minute before he acknowledged me. Looking at his computer screen, I saw that he was deeply engrossed in a game of solitaire.
- Doggy Style was played over the sound system between Wale and Lupe’s sets. I would bet the majority of crowd was probably in pre-school when that album came out.
- I saw more than a few young ladies with “lawn seats” wearing super high heels. I could barely navigate the slightly muddy hill with any semblance of grace and I was wearing tennis shoes. More power to you, ladies.
- I was bummed I missed Phil Ade. I like him quite a bit.
- Big Sean was part of the tour, but did not appear on this evening for reasons I do not know. I also was not the least bit disappointed, though.
- More photos from the show are online here.