There's a special intensity to rap shows that extends far beyond the walls of a place like State Theatre. For all the not-give-a-fuck-ness and inaudible rhymes that have infiltrated the stage more times than I'd care to count, there's always a palpable energy and serious reverence in the crowd that has nothing to do with the performance in front of them, but to simply the guy, or the perceived idea of the guy, these people feel connected to. [Text by Andrew, photos by Mike.]
Gza is a shining example of this; hoisted to rap legend status as one part of the Wu-Tang Clan and a solid solo artist with his 1995 opus Liquid Swords, this is a dude that garners Mafioso-like respect in hip hop head circles for what he's done, but not necessarily what he's doing.
Because, whatever it was at State Theatre on Wednesday night, it wasn’t good. Gza was billed to play Liquid Swords in its entirety with a live band like he's done for most of the tour. Except, there was no live band, or opening duo Sweet Valley (composed of Wavves frontman Nathan Williams and little brother), or even the original, bigger setting of the Ritz in Ybor. This show was marred by disappointing complications before the first beat even dropped and hardly did much to rise above its dismal situation.
Gza took the stage to thunderous applause from the crowd, before launching into a set heavy on the classics but unfortunately on the complete boringness factor, too. Staring emptily to the back wall, reciting verses like a poem he had to remember for class, Gza's presence near-immediately confirmed that he's an artist built for the studio, not the stage. The delivery was there, if you could hear it through the muddy PA drowned out by Liquid Swords' iconic boom-bap beats, but Gza couldn’t have looked more disinterested in it all through the majority of a set composed of tracks from the album and other Wu-Tang numbers. Clearly this is a guy who shines much more brightly with the pen and paper than on stage with the mic.
Opener Killer Mike, on the other hand, showed up Wednesday night with a heartfelt, energetic set big on his signature brand of intelligent, Southern-fried rap. His latest single "Reagan" is a well-thought-out, interesting analysis of modern politics and the factors that got us here (i.e. the Reagan administration), which sounded all the more poetic nestled between tracks with typical subject matter touching on being the shit, smoking blunts, drinking drinks, etc. It all felt suprisingly genuine, however, as an animated Mike sauntered across the stage during songs, and regaled us with a heartfelt story about his longstanding connection with St. Pete towards the end of his set.
Bear Hands took the stage before Mike for what I'll go ahead and nominate as "Most Oddly-Placed Act on a Rap Tour" for 2012. The Brooklyn psych-pop outfit sounded noticeably more purposeful and confident than they did just over a year ago, but it might as well be a moot point as seemingly no one there was feeling them to the point that a few "get off the stage" shouts emanated from the front rows.
Tyler- I can't believe how talented of a writer you are. This article was beautifully…
Great interview! Give the interviewer a full time job! He's great!
The DJ was actually The Castle's very own DJ Tom Gold :)
Fabulous review Gabe! Too bad I missed it.