photo by kelly connelly
They say that nothing in life is free, and if this show was an illustration of that phrase, the only cost of admission was being constantly barraged with Coors Light messaging. As this was “The Coors Light Search for the Coldest National Tour featuring N.E.R.D. and Pac Div,” you couldn’t turn your head without seeing signs, banners, some sort of fake ice piece, rows of Coors Light Bottles, and more–including a case of the beer next to the DJ table on stage. Even before entering the venue, Sonar, it was clear who was presenting this show, with Coors Light models checking people in and greeting attendees.
Before two contestants in the “search” took the stage, and between sets, DJ Reddz primed the crowd’s ears with a nice mix of current hip hop hits (from artists like Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, and YC, the last of which is responsible for the undeniably catchy “Racks”) and a healthy helping of ’90s classics. Reddz has always been one of my favorite DJs, both live and on the radio.
In terms of the aforementioned talent search, hosts Erroll Omari and Konan did little to explain the premise of the search, though they were good hosts for the event otherwise. Two of the four finalists performed at this show. The first was Billa Camp, a Chicago MC who rapped pretty much nonstop from the moment he grabbed the mic to the time he walked off stage. He performed what I guess could be called a medley of songs, some of which employed unexpected samples, including The English Beat’s “Mirror in the Bathroom”. Next up was a member of Seattle’s Eclectic Approach, whose first song was a heartfelt but not-very-good song about his older brother’s battle with substance abuse. (The irony of this subject being explored onstage amidst scads of beer imagery was not lost on me.) His next song was much, much better, but my memory is very, very lacking as far as remembering the title, much less the subject matter, of that song. (More info on the talent contest component of this show is available online.)
California hip hop trio Pac Div followed the contestants with a very energetic and fun set. There’s something about the interplay among these MCs (BeYoung and brothers Like and Mibbs) that reminds me a little of Pharcyde. (Maybe the Cali accent helps?) Like took the stage puffing on a pipe–as in the type of pipe you’d imagine Sherlock Holmes or Colonel Mustard enjoying. (That was sort of slick to me.) They performed a bunch of songs from their latest mixtape, Mania!–including “Anti-Freeze”, “Take Me High”, and “Chief Rocka Freestyle”–the strongest reaction from the crowd came when they performed “Mayor”. From what I could see, there were a lot of Pac Div fans in the audience, and lots more who might not have entered the show as such, but left with an appreciation for this group.
The main event of the evening was a performance by another trio, N.E.R.D., and all three were present this evening. That might be stating the obvious, but with Pharrell usually being the one who pops to mind first, and with Chad being a little less in the spotlight than Pharrell, and with Shay being a little mysterious altogether, I wasn’t sure all members would be accounted for, but they were.
Although I’ve considered myself a fan of N.E.R.D. since the release of their great debut In Search Of…, this was my first time seeing them live. And really, as the word fan is short for fanatic, then I probably wouldn’t qualify if compared to the real and true fanatics at the show this evening. Chief among these super fans was the guy I stood next to right up front (I staked out and fiercely guarded a decent spot from which to take photos), whose left hand was in Star Trak formation for most of the show. (His other hand held his iPhone, which he was using to record the show.) It’s always something special to be in the midst of super fans at shows. (I wish more people made and brought signs to shows, but that’s really neither here nor there.)
Backed by a full band, including Chad on a Moog keyboard, the group performed a lot of songs I didn’t really know the words to, further leading me to question how dedicated a fan I’ve been through the years. Still, they sounded great, with Pharrell’s falsetto sounding especially lovely on “Hypnotize You”. There were a few songs from In Search Of… that I was disappointed in not hearing this evening, but that’s a minor complaint.
Introducing “Everyone Nose (All the Girls Standing in Line for the Bathroom)”, Pharrell sang a couple lines (no pun intended) of the Baltimore Club classic “Mr. Postman” and said that they thought club music was “some incredible shit.” “Everyone Nose” was the group’s attempt at employing the Club song, and while they did an admirable job music-wise and it’s nice to hear at least one of the big acts admit the influence, the subject matter of this song has always been so corny to me. (I’ve always hoped Pharrell would reach out to DJ Booman to work together. Perhaps one day?) Must admit, though, that the song sounded great live, as did most of the songs. The band was excellent.
Another moment of irony for the evening occurred when Pharrell implored everyone to crouch down (or was it squat?) in the middle of “Bobby James”, while he talked about being different. He called out those who didn’t crouch down as thinking they were too cool to be different (or something to that effect), but wouldn’t standing straight up while almost everyone else edged closer to the floor be the truly different thing to do? (I displayed my individuality by being Kelly, tall and proud. That’s a bit of writer’s embellishment because I semi-crouched so I wouldn’t get called out. I do not like attention. Plus, I’m average height at best.)
Also of note was the enthusiasm with which Chad displayed Coors Light bottles on stage. At one point he even came to the front of the stage, closed beer bottle in hand, and pantomimed asking Pharrell for a bottle opener. Other times, he swayed a beer bottle back and forth near the back and side of the stage. Maybe it was just me, but the overblown displays seemed to be at least a little tongue in cheek, and ironic in a different way. (Like ironic mustaches. The worst kind of mustache there is.) Or maybe he was just really happy to be representing a product that paid for this show. Although I didn’t have a sip of the beer myself (but did buy a Peroni, which I assumed and later confirmed is distributed by Coors in the states), enjoying this thoroughly entertaining show seemed like a fair payoff for being a heavily marketed target.
Near the end of N.E.R.D.’s set, Pharrell hand picked eight or nine male members of the crowd to come up on stage. First one up was the guy to my right, and considering I didn’t know him from Adam and his zealous nanoo-nanoo arm-waving interrupted a large majority of my shots, I was happy he got the chance to go up and rock out a bit with what was obviously one of his favorite groups.
Check out more photos from the show.
Thanks to Gypsy Soul & Soulcial Grind PR for handling media access.