House of Blues Anaheim
A few things have happened since I last lit up Lupe Fiasco, my rap icon, with a critical show recap last year: Tetsuo & Youth has grown on me and the rhymer is currently doing "Tour for the Fans" show dates.
That was the scene last night at House of Blues Anaheim where Fiasco delivered a jam packed set lasting over two hours. The first thirty minutes belonged to his latest album. The show started off with the long-winded "Mural" and the pop off energy seemed a little on the lax side. But once the rapper delved into his ghetto tale "Deliver," a song that deserves a place among the pantheon of his classics, the energy of the crowd stepped up a couple notches.
When the Tetsuo & Youth portion of the night concluded, stage hands swapped out backdrops while the DJ played cuts from Fiasco's classic mixtapes. If anyone needed a reminder of his lyrical prowess, Fiasco kicked off his second salvo of rhymes with "The Coolest" setting the tone for the rest of night. The rapper blazed through almost every track imaginable from his Atlantic Records catalog to worshiping chants of "Lu-pe, Lu-pe!"
Feeling a little like Moses, Fiasco split the floor crowd into two sections next. He challenged each side to get more live than the other while "Next To It" thundered. (I think my side won!) The onstage antic elevated the energy in the venue to new heights. Fiasco continued to slay through the set list dedicated to the fans with songs like "Paris, Tokyo," "Words I Never Said," and "Out of My Head." He dropped the beats often to rap a cappella because true LupeStans best know all the words to rhyme along. Feeling the need to test the crowd, Fiasco ordered up "Next To It" again. The audience responded by jumping up and down rumbling the floors of the House of Blues.
Taking time out to talk to the fans, Fiasco explained that he's releasing three albums this year (Drogas, Skulls, Roy) with Roy being his retirement finale. He gave a sneak preview of a new song with dope rhymes, hook and a beat showing that life after Atlantic Records holds promise. Lupe didn't like the way it sounded live the first time around and played it again right after.
"We done did 30 fucking songs," Fiasco said at one point. The later it got into the night, the more it felt like it. Nobody knew for sure what song would be the high energy closer. When he ripped into "Kick Push," hands waved in the air celebrating the 10th anniversary of Food & Liquor. Surely that was the moment, right? Some fans filed out thinking they knew better, but Fiasco pressed on. His radio hit "Superstar" beamed a few songs after. That had to be the closer, no? No. "The Show Goes On" followed next with all its Modest Mouse sampling mightiness, a song I could definitely do without but the crowd didn't seem to mind.
Fiasco kept playing past midnight coming back to the "Next To It" game again before declaring Anaheim the livest of the tour. "My back fucking hurts," the rapper explained from all the jumping around. It was an appropriate lead in to "Battle Scars" but even that didn't end the night. Instead, he pressed on dedicating
"Blur My Hands" "Mission" to DJ Timbuck2 who toured with the rapper and recently died of cancer at the young age of 34. A sentimental closing note? Nah. "Donald Trump that shit!" Fiasco instructed to the DJ who played "Next To It" yet again. By that time, the shtick lost its luster.
But, hey, what fan isn't always a little frustrated with Lupe Fiasco? It comes with the territory of following the greatness he personified last night, even if a little scattered and uneven at times. Peace and much love to ya!
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Critic's bias: Lupe Fiasco's the greatest word wizard in all of hip-hop
Overheard: "He played that one song too many times!"
The Crowd: Whites, Blacks, Latinos and Asians: a multiracial pack of hip-hop heads
Set list: Summer, Mural, Dots & Lines, Prisoner, Body of Work, Little Death, Winter, Deliver, Adoration of the Magi, The Coolest, Around My Way [Freedom Ain't Free], Hip Hop Saved My Life, Go Go Gadget Flow, Next To It, Touch the Sky, Out Of My Head, Paris Tokyo, Bitch Bad, Take it Slow (New Song), Kick Push, Words I Never Said, American Terrorist, Daydreamin', Superstar, The Show Goes On, Next To It, Fundamentals (w/ Billy Blue), Next To It, Battle Scars, Mission, Next To It.