Von - Von comes out with microphone backed only by a DJ. There was not a focus on bouncy dance beats, but more of a thunderous rumble coming out of the electronics. As someone who has been a Pere Ubu fan for 35 years, but only goes to about 2 hip hop shows a year, I rather liked this sonic approach. It also allowed a focus on the words which were pointed and direct. Thematically, Von used some Egyptian motifs in his approach which was a nice touch. Von's lyrics did remind me of the comparisons between punk rock and hip hop. Musically they are quite different, but they are spiritual brothers. Both believe in DIY and in-your-face heartfelt lyrics delivered with energy. And on the downside, it gets a little preachy and predictable. I sensed a bit of that here, but still was satisfied with the 25 minute set. The crowd was a little on the tepid side, but the people up front were into it.
Talib Kweli - This was a familiar name even to me, as Kweli has established his MC skills in many different formats over recent years. He is backed tonight with a DJ and a band comprising drums, bass and keyboards. Immediately, good rhythms from the vocals and DJ get things started as the band slowly adds its muscle during the set. Kweli's lyrical delivery is fast and on the mark. Often, the band is a bit too quiet, especially the keyboards, but the solo moments are good, especially by the bass player during a nice lounge jazz/R&B styled song. Kweli did sing some songs and mixed the pace and energy levels well rounding out the set nicely. This was a late sell-out and the crowd was into it throughout the night and there was a good vibe in the club. They attempted a version of Eleanor Rigby which was an interesting idea, but he did not know the lyrics and went nah-nah-nah to everything but the obvious parts. Funny, he he could quote his Billboard chart positions in both the overall chart and Rap chart, but he couldn't get down a couple of verses. He had to stop proceedings here and a bit later, as the DJ was having all kinds of technical problems. The sound thinned out a bit thereafter, but as Kweli said "this is why I got a band." So the rest went over well and the set was over in an hour, aside from the rapid fire encores thereafter featuring a big hit, as was obvious from the crowd. There was a minor downside as it they took an hour after the opener to begin the set and some fan said to me that she had to get to work tomorrow, so I am glad I am not the only one that suffers some of these delays. But all was well once Kweli hit the stage. He is a sharp guy and am not surprised by his success.
Quote of the Night: Kweli looked back to his band "You all ready?" Crowd: "Yeah!!!" Kweli: "I know you're ready, I'm talking to them"