Lil Wayne with Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Travis Barker and Mix Master Mike, and Porcelain Black performed Friday night at the Saddledome.
The more charitable among us might look at the jam-packed and eclectic lineup artists Lil Wayne assembled for his I Am Still Music Tour and consider it a generous gift from the superstar. It might be looked at as his desire to give his audience more bang for its buck, the opportunity to expand their horizons, as well as showcasing some of the more notable of his Young Money stable.
Or, the more practical, might instead see it as the opportunity to buy some time while the majority of his audience was able to navigate through a security check that in its sheer obtrusiveness and thoroughness would have put most airport screeners to shame.
Whatever the case, by the time the N’Awlins native finally took the stage for his own healthy set of dynamic hip-hop, the evening had already run the gamut from the great to the grating to the glaringly mediocre.
And, again, intentions aside, that speaks to the 28-year-old’s crossover appeal -note his work with even power pop veterans Weezer -and the artists who want a piece of his lucrative name and audience.
Look to the evening’s opener, his latest protege Porcelain Black, a ridiculous “rock” starlet, who makes Avril Lavigne look like Lemmy.
Offering the most fundamental and grade-school approximation of what being rock ‘n’ roll really is -”I should, like, talk about drinking and, like, partying and swear a lot, right?” -the young singer crawled around the stage on all fours like the 101 Dalmatians in heat and shrieked her inanities over Romper Room “metal” that would give ABBA cavities. It was as funny as it was tragic.
On the other end of the spectrum was the spectacular drum ‘n’ DJ duo of Travis Barker and Mix Master Mike. Encased in a giant boom box, the pair picked things up with a set that was fierce and entertaining, with the Mix Master scratching over samples by artists such as his most famous collaborators, the Beastie Boys, while Barker hammered away at his kit with a ferocity that he rarely mustered with former band Blink 182.
The final act of the opening slate was rapper Rick Ross, and his set fell somewhere between the others. It was a by-the-book, straight up hip-hop show, that was neither remarkable nor particularly negateable. Ross’s gruff growl is distinctive enough, and he has a solid stage presence, but very little of his material rose above the laundry list of cars, money and the only reason to acquire those – the ladies.
Or, rather, any pejorative term for a female of the species you’d prefer to replace it with.
If you need any help with that, perhaps you could refer to the evening’s headliner, whose extensive catalogue of hits is the Wiki of misogyny, but not something that seems to deter his fans — many of which, Friday night were of the decidedly young and female variety.
Fair enough, there’s little difference between that and, say, Motley Crue’s oeuvre, but there’s something a little more confrontational about it, especially when a song such as I’m Single, is preceded by Lil Wayne’s reference to his recent stay in the American correctional system and what that has done to his s#xual appetite.
But, to focus on aspect of Lil Wayne and his music is entirely unfair to the show, itself, which was a high-octane, immaculately paced mix of visual spectacle and musical energy.
Backed by a pretty stellar live band and a multiscreen set, Weezy delivers from the second he takes the stage to the moment he steps off. In fact, his verbal style seems more suited to that arena than on record, with tracks such as Bill Gates, Girl You Know and Right Above It (sadly minus Canadian Young Money signing Drake) given a whole dose of added lyrical maliciousness.
More importantly, he has an exhausting and entertaining understanding of showmanship — his show was one of the longest these parts has seen in ages — and he oozees charisma with ease. And there’s certainly no doubt he knows how to work a room, announcing early on the three most important things about him: 1.) He believes in God; 2.) He ain’t nothin’ without his audience; and 3.) He ain’t nothin’ without his audience.
And, like him, there are very few from that roster of artists on his label who would be anything without his backing, as throughout his lengthy set he gave various stars from Young Money their moment in the many bright spotlights, including the label’s brightest star currently, Nicki Minaj.
The blond-wigged rapper had a healthy showcase in the middle of the evening, and offered her own aggressively estrogenated take on the hip-hop form. She, too, can hold a room and proved that rather than being the spice in male artist’s music, she has a place on the tour that falls on the more exceptional side of the scale.
(Please note: This article was corrected to change the fact that Rick Ross is not signed with Young Money Entertainment.)
Follow on Twitter mrbell_23
Popularity: 2% [?]