Sunday, August 05, 2007

Concert Coverage - Volume 6: Rock The Bells (Miami)

(As seen on MTV's You R Here)

On a night when Nas and Wu-Tang Clan headlined the biggest hip-hop event Miami had ever seen, it was mid-carders Mos Def and Talib Kweli, along with their special surprise guest Common, that stole the show and received the most ruckus (no pun intended) reaction from the crowd.

Talib Kweli entered the stage at Bayfront Park just as the scorching Miami sun began setting behind Dowtown’s high-rise-condominium-laden skyline. After performing his bigger solo hits “Move Something” and “The Blast,” along with songs from his upcoming Ear Drum like “Listen!!!” and “Hot Thing,” he was finally joined on stage by his partner-in-rhyme Mos Def for the fan favorite “Get By.”

With the energy already at a fever pitch, the duo launched into their Black Star collaborations “Definition” and “Supreme Supreme,” before Common ran out on stage. With the hip-hop-show-deprived Miami crowd of several thousand whipped into a frenzy, the trio jumped into “Respiration,” followed by Common’s new single, “The People.”

Unfortunately, when Kweli and Common left Mos Def onstage alone, the show quickly spiraled into a low point. Although Mos eventually tackled classics like “Mathematics,” “Ms. Fat Booty” and “Umi Says,” the anxious crowd was subjected to almost 40 minutes of what essentially was Mos Def’s iPod playlist of favorite songs, as he danced around and told us why he loved hip-hop. Many of the same people who excitedly sung along to every Black Star song just minutes before, began filing out for the concessions as Mos wasted away his set time.

Headliners Wu-Tang Clan closed the show with an hour-long set focused heavily on pre-1998 classics. Masta Killah was absent, but nobody seemed to mind as Gza and Ghostfacce filled in for him on the set-closing “Triumph.” Method Man, who was vocally displeased with last week’s New York Rock The Bells crowd several times, said Miami was the most energetic crowd on the tour thus far, and rewarded the crowd with a pseudo-encore performance of “Gravel Pit.”

The most touching moment of the set came when Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s son joined the Clan for a dedication performance of “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.”

Nas gave a crowd-satisfying performance that touched all facets of his career. What he lacks in stage presence and breath-control, he makes up for with his deep catalogue of classic songs. He performed everything from smash singles (“If I Ruled The World,” “Made You Look”), to album cuts (“Shoot ‘Em Up,” “Black Republicans”), to songs that only die-hard fans would know (“Doo Rags,” “No Idea’s Original). It was a bit jarring to hear most of Illmatic, and “Oochie Walley” performed in the same set, but Nas rewarded his varying fan base handsomely.

Pharoahe Monch, along with half of his backing band (his guitarist and keyboardist were mysteriously absent) and his backup singers, provided an entertaining performance of newer songs like “Desire” and “Free,” along with his more well known “Oh No” and “My Life.” The set-closing “Simon Says” was the closest a hip-hop show could get to a mosh pit.

Immortal Technique, never one to shy away from his highly-political opinions, shied away from most of his usual Republican-bashing (maybe since Miami is a very Republican city), but chose to address social and racial issues that plague Hispanic people living in the United States. Joined on stage by Diabolic, his most energetic performance came with “Peruvian Cocaine.”

Philadelphian collective Jedi Mind Tricks received a surprisingly rousing response, with a set focusing heavily on their 2000 release Violent By Design.
Miami acts Fresh Air Fund, and ¡Mayday!, of mtvU “Groundhog Day” fame, opened. Scheduled performers David Banner and UGK both no-showed.


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