Under the Influence Tour featuring Wiz Khalifa, A$AP Rock and more Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre 7/18/2013 Orange County was blessed to be the second stop on the 2013 Under The Influence Tour featuring the rap games newest group of heavy hitters. Only the second stop of the 38 date tour, acts rocked the stage with the comfort that should only logically come around mid-tour. A sunny 80-something degree day which brought out a sea of fisherman hats -hip-hop's latest trend- and handfuls upon handfuls of booty... shorts, set the tone for a scintillating , action-packed summer night for the 18+ crowd.
One of the thousands of 18 year-olds on the premises was the Flatbush, Brooklyn native, Joey Bada$$ who brought his mature rhyme scheme with him for a short set in front of a crowd sprinkled throughout Irvine's al fresco venue. Apparently, the hype the young Bada$$ has begotten from artists and execs--including talk that he he's scheduled to sign to Jay-Z's label RocNation--has yet to crossover to the majority of OC's youth, who struggled singing along to his verse on A$AP Rocky's "1 Train". Bet that his next trip to an OC venue will produce different results considering that he's only recently latched on to that neo-underground niche that Rocky, Schoolboy Q, and their comrades are pumping right now.
Another rising star, Trinidad Jame$, arrived to the stage on a gold BMX bike -as seen in the "All Gold Everything" video- rocking a Dashiki top, as well as a perm-headband combo that would make Jimi jealous. Jame$ took to the still growing audience with a stage dive and a did a song in the pit before returning to the front to find out who in the audience "fuxed with him", before going into his lone, bass-heavy single that boosted crowd energy temporarily. The Gold Gang Records CEO urged the crowd to "Dream. Believe." and "Turn up!" several times , perhaps revealing his formula to making it on a nationwide tour.
As the crowd crept over half-full, ATL's favorite Hip-Popper (no typo), B.o.B took the stage to do a little turning up of his own. With almost as many singles as Wiz and two more Grammy nominations, it would appear that the Top 40-loving crowd would lose their shit when songs like "Airplanes", or "Beautiful Girl" played. And though more hands went up and a few chicks sang along, the intensity Bobby Ray's music demanded for full enjoyment was in short supply at Verizon Amphitheatre... Until he threw his Adidas -signed by him- into the crowd, screamed that he was out of his fucking mind and sporadically ran high up into the amphitheatre, stopping just short of the lawn to start his new single "We Still In This Bitch." B.o.B then started "Play For Keeps" with an a capella verse followed by overbearing bass also to the crowd's delight, probably making them regret not being hype for the first half of the set.
The real show had just begun. And the crowd fell further under the influence as more smoke began to rise and temperatures began to drop.
It's a wonder how fast sold-out the venue swelled to capacity as A$AP Rocky stepped out to cheers that delayed his opening statement that he was there like us to get high, get drunk, and party. It's also a wonder how the atmosphere got cloudy so fast. Making one think a storm front might have rushed in to disrupt the show. But it was only a billowing of smoke expressing the crowd's satisfaction with being in A$AP's presence for a night. After going through his "1 Train" verse and other music from "Long.Live.A$AP", Rocky stopped to talk, well, solicit some weed from the audience who immediately flowered him the way the stoniest of brides would prefer. Handfuls of joints and blunts rushed the stage prompting the "Goldie" performer to announce, "Christmas came early this year!"
Rocky sparked one of the joints, took some starter hits and said "this ain't a smoke break, this my time to smoke with y'all". Reading from the crowd's reaction they got their money's worth in that instant. The syrup-laced sounds of A$AP continued to fill the night as "Hands on the Wheel " played, which would've have been the perfect time for 20,000 teenagers to spawn imaginary steering wheels.
From asking the crowd if he could sing to them to then, having to tell to a guy to defer the nylon, A$AP jacket he threw into the crowd to a girl, Rocky's interaction with the crowd made it one that those in the audience will indubitably rank high on their all-time lists. An interlude composed entirely of Jimi Hendrix played in the background as anticipation for the O.N.I.F.C. grew louder.
Just as the clock struck 10, the highest of headliners emerged sporting a black leather jacket and stirrups. Correction: leather, studded stirrups--and a shirt with a Doberman printed on it that resembled the Pittsburg native. Wiz' positive vibes immediately brought an elation that had those -mainly myself- literally skip to their seats as instrumental version of "Work Hard, Play Hard" blared. It was show time and you could feel the titillating pulse moving through the crowd. Wiz even had to acknowledge the energy after returning from his first wardrobe change -he was now wearing a white tank, white pants, and the leather-studded stirrups were no longer.
The rapper then went into his first ever single "Say Yeah" which paired well with Wiz rolling around on the floor and bending his lanky knees to come eye-level with a crunk crowd that oozed excitement. Wiz' signature laugh and opened-mouth grin was the sentiment of the good time that everyone one was having. It was clear at that point, how much of a good guy Wiz naturally is, even before he dedicated a song to Amber Rose who was in the audience. That's when Wiz turned into a sappy ass guy and started getting hit by Amber's blown kisses on stage. It was disgustingly adorable. And all was going good until a certain main attraction teased the audience with a Juicy J appearance that never came to fruition... You're a bastard for that Wiz! But that was soon forgotten about once Wiz hit us with his rapid-firing "UEONO" verse that preceded "Black and Yellow" and a sky full of confetti that capped off a truly celebratory night.
Last night's show is definitely what was in mind when the universe decided that concerts should be thoroughly enjoyed. There was nothing besides expensive concessions to be complained about and well those are always a given. A fun-loving crowd and artists who seemed to share that same fun on stage made this a great night for music culture in Orange County.
The Crowd: High... All very high. The scent of burned trees hovered about Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre for more than an hour after Wiz left the stage.
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Overheard: Fireworks, specifically Roman Candles were heard before turning around to see sparks flying up by the lawn.
Random Notebook Dump: There's always the dickhead -probably on Molly- who starts flailing his arms in the seats to kill someone's high. He would've rightfully been punched by anybody who wanted risk being kicked out of such a dope show.
Critic Bias: Though the show tremendously boosted the high respect I already had for Wiz, B.o.B, and the other artists, I would have easily rather have seen Amber Rose jump around and roll on stage for an hour.