Photo by Sisto
Think of last night as the dress rehearsal: it was the show that got added after tonight's sold out, so yeah, the room was only half-full, and Low B cancelled due to the weather in Philly (which somehow didn't prevent the Re-Up Gang from making the trip north from the City of Brotherly Love). The thumbnail description: Clipse running through full versions of nearly every song you'd want to hear (we took a quick smoke break, maybe they did "Hello New World" while we were gone), with Ab-Liva and Sandman bringing a fresh package onstage when the rhyme supply began to run low. The only visible skeptic was the Herald's Chris Faraone, who bravely called bullshit on the evening's proceedings. Chris may be an indie-rap snob, but he wasn't wrong, necessarily: Pusha T and Malice were professional and on point, but their art takes place primarily on the notepad (Faraone would dispute even that: "it's ok for commercial shit," he winced). We have a soft spot for smart, earnest indie kids who sweat the technique: they remind us lots of their existentialist/rockist cousins from indie-punk's early-'90s heyday, always quick to draw out the distinction between craftsmen and salesmen. You know OTD: we're always trying to stretch the rules to suggest that the game is now played on multiple platforms, that the stage is not just the six feet between the DJ and the PA, but also the space where all that other mess happens -- the critics' polls and the YouTube vids and the blog buzz and the merch table and the message board hype. Which is to say that Clipse made their meaning long before they stepped on the plywood, and all they could do once they were there was live up to it, or not, as best as anyone can with two turntables, a couple of microphones, and a sampler set on glock-shot. Grade: B+.
That said, we expect to hear differently from Ben "This Is The Best Two Nights of My Life" Sisto, who appeared to know more words to these songs than we do, or at least is a better lip-syncher. Swing the point-of-view away from the dude who gives out the grades and it was a really good night to be fan-boying and ka-shmoozing. We're pretty sure it was either Ben or TD from Big Digits who shouted "Swagger Jacker!" from the side of the stage, which Pusha seemed to get a kick out of. (We stand corrected: See TD's update in the comments.) Most embarassing moment before Clipse took the stage: the part where the DJ dropped "Jump Around" and everyone sang along. Embarassing like when your police force mistakes Mooninites for pipe bombs.
Which brings us to tonight, live, sold out: our prediction is higher energy and more fun, because when it comes down to four dudes nailing an hour's worth of solid material, the only variable is in what people bring with them, and no matter what that turns out to be, there will absolutely be more of it.