High Road Tour Goes From a Kickback to a Smoked Out, West Coast Get-Down

Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg
John Gilhooley

High Road Tour (Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa and more)
Irvine Meadows Amphitheater
8/25/2016

The High Road Tour stopped by to smoke us out during one of the last dog days of Summer ‘16. Synergy surged among the cadre of West Coast artists (Casey Veggies, Jhene Aiko and Snoop Dogg) and the remaining show features in DJ Drama, Kevin Gates and Wiz Khalifa who, though starkly distinct, couldn’t have meshed much better with their Cali-born counterparts. 

Following Veggies’ short, sweet introductory set, the Fairfax legend was followed by Aiko, taking the stage in a deep V-neck long sleeve and baggy, flowy bottoms, that bloomed with every gracious turn she took. Her set began while a brisk breeze dipped into the venue as the night sky overtook the dusky afternoon. It paired well with Jhene’s ethereal-like demeanor, sometimes goddess-like in fickleness. When spinning in the meandering bubbles, spawning from the stage floor, and singing her tracks like “Higher," Aiko assumed a hippie-child role, even more accentuated by her yellow flower crown making her look the Snapchat filter prototype.

Jhene Aiko
Jhene Aiko
John Gilhooley

However,  the songstress employed a boisterous voice that fiercely warbled through the venue like the war-waging Athena when she’s rebuking a love she once coveted on “Comfort Inn Ending.” Her frisk is on display when demanding head on a live-version of “Post to Be” enhanced by live instrumentation. And giving no rest to the rumors surrounding her romance with Big Sean, Aiko summoned the Detroit rapper for a track off their recent “Twenty88.” They gently revolve around another but keep contact casual. The tone for a kickback night was set early.

Soon followed Kevin Gates, taking the stage with his toddling daughter. They eased out from behind stage, Gates keeping his mafioso like persona the entire set. His all-black background and outfit further developed the dark, almost menacing vibe Gates has come to occupy since entering the conversation. Ironically, it was also around this time that a group of gate crashers in the very back of the venue were rushing the lawn to see the show. At one point, the security just gave up trying to capture any of them...probably one of the most epic stunts in recent history—congrats, you hooligans!

Kevin Gates
Kevin Gates
John Gilhooley

Meanwhile, on stage Gates was able to match the sedated aura of Aiko. Even when tough talking/encouraging the audience to work toward their goals before his breakout “I Don’t Get Tired” and hilariously inquiring which patrons had “good pussy,” Gates was collected in his approach. The “2 Phones” rapper made no sudden movements excepting some hand gesturing when casually labeling some of the crowd as “motherfuckas”. Even when going up octaves in his country-twang that resembles a Luke Bryan with some added baritone, Gates was relatively still, allowing his hearty vocals to captivate the crowd rather than his tronics.

Up until this point, the show was Indica-heavy. Hands waved and some grooved a bit, as did Aiko, but a calm air had a hold of the venue. A ‘Concerts in the Park” feel overtook Irvine for the moment. Harmonizing, both strong and soothing, was the theme of the night as the crowd anticipated the co-headliners whose parallels made the High Road Tour more sensical. Before the last leg of the night, DJ Drama would earn his check, shaking the venue from the groove we’d fallen into after so many joints had caught up with even the non-smokers questioning the legitimacy of a contact high. Playing the typical concert tunes (Kendrick’s “Alright” and A$AP Ferg’s “Work”), the crowd jolted into gear, rising from their Kush comas and orchestra seating to tune-in and turn up. As they cleared Drama’s setup, he stepped from behind his tables to do his trademark shit-talking.

“The Dogg is home! The Dogg is home!” were his last words.

What followed is was partly what we’ve come to expect from Snoop Dogg shows in Southern California; a living legend in the flesh flanked by an onslaught of special guests that make up some of the most known and recited songs of all-time. What was added onto the High Road Tour was the gusto of Wiz Khalifa, largely a Snoop Dogg protege whose own acclaim bolstered the already family reunion feel of Doggfather shows. The animated clips projecting Snoop and Wiz hunting for trunks full of weed and riding around in  Cadillacs were more like home movies that froze in time this moment of harmony.

Looking and singing along to Snoop was like mouthing along the oft-repeated stories of the cool uncle’s legendary past. Part of Unc’s allure is that the stories of parties jumping at 2am cause momma ain’t home have aged as well as he. When Daz, Kurupt and Warren G are brought on stage to tell their sides of the stories you’ve heard all your life, the corroboration adds to the appeal. The other part of the Unc’s allure is that he continues to make history and legends (made clear during his performance of “Legend” from recent album Coolaid), now with nephews and offspring who’ve followed in his tracks the way Wiz has.

Wiz Khalifa
Wiz Khalifa
John Gilhooley

Whatever calm or zeal Snoop seems to lack was picked up and reproduced 10-fold by the grinning Wiz Khalifa. As the crowd is implored to jump while Snoop pays homage to House of Pain, Snoop’s slight bouncing is wildly outdone by Wiz’ pogos, which lead to Khalifa capering across the stage, swinging his lanky arms and head-bobbing. Many times it’s as if Wiz is keeping Snoop young like when the OG mimics Wiz’ shoulder rolling or when he’s ad-libbing special guest Ty Dolla Sign’s verse on “You and Your Friends” in a vehemently '80s manner. Despite the age difference, the two never change planes. Perhaps the joints shared are keeping them near.

When Wiz is doing his solo thing involving him kick around like a rockstar, Snoop is there encouraging and letting him know what he wants to see Wiz do next. “Do that gangsta shit I like” Snoop requests before Wiz, literally, jumps into “Taylor Gang”. And if it’s not Ty Dolla Sign or Wiz setting Snoop off, a special appearance from YG to leads to Snoop Cripwalking in bright blue Chucks during “Twist My Fingaz” and requesting a performance of “FDT”.

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What began as a “gentle, sentimental” show with Jhene Aiko and Kevin Gates became lyrics repurposed as part of Snoop’s “Bitch Please” verse that jacked up the crowd when one thought it might be too late to turn up so high, considering the compounding effects of weed and fatigue. Wiz and Snoop accomplished what could likely not be done by any other combo in music today and brought classic fan favorites into a realm of new favorites -and new style- seamlessly.

The pairing was serendipitous enough to involve another pair (Ty Dolla Sign and YG) who share an early history together making for nothing other than a family affair when the stage was overtaken by both entourages. A legend and one aspiring has made for the perfect mix of comradery and charisma with the unifying Mary Jane overseeing a bountiful relationship culminate into such an intuitive, harmonious show that is the High Road Tour.

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