If one of today's marquee young rappers (Kendrick, J. Cole, Drake) put on a show like an average Action Bronson concert, it would likely blow people's minds and be viewed as their best performance ever.
For everyone's favorite 285-pound Albanian Jewish rapper from Queens, what would be considered the most entertaining set of many rappers' careers is just another Monday night at the Observatory in Santa Ana.
Seeing as Monday's performance was still a part of Bronson's "Mr. Wonderful Tour" in support of his most recent album, it came as a surprise to few that the bearded rapper opened with the album's first handful of tracks "Brand New Car," "The Rising," "Terry" and "Actin' Crazy."
What may have caught some of his fans off-guard (if they hadn't seen him live before), were his over-the-top stage antics.
Bronson began the set by walking on to the stage, but quickly hopped on an electric skateboard (or whatever one of those motorized rolling things with the two circles where you put your feet are called) to cruise and spin around the stage for the early portion of the set. About a half-dozen songs into the performance, Bronson even invited two fans (well, one kind of invited himself) up on stage to try the device out before giving away some of them.
Electric skateboards weren't the only giveaway at the show, as Bronson began sharing his "$100 blunt" a couple songs into the set, before ultimately getting it back from the crowd (despite initially dropping it, much to his disbelief). Over the course of the show, Bronson graciously shared his weed with the crowd on numerous occasions, including throwing several samples into the excited arms of his fans toward the end of his set.
Gifts weren't Bronson's only crowd interaction though, with the rapper almost constantly telling the crowd to "light whatever you got" and joking that the crowd looks beautiful "except for you, you're one ugly motherfucker." Of all the delightfully self-indulgent stage banter, including directing the crowd in chanting his name in manners usually reserved for professional wrestling, probably the best line out of the sweat-drenched former chef was "I feel like Celine Dion!"
In the middle of the set, the opening act (and regular Bronson co-conspirator) Meyhem Lauren joined the rapper for a couple songs ("Jackson and Travolt' and '100 MPH') after Bronson followed 'Actin' Crazy' with 'Pepe Lopez.' from his Blue Chips 2 mixtape. 'Strictly 4 My Jeeps' then got likely the biggest crowd response of any of Bronson's older material, before the rapper went back to Mr. Wonderful with a hilarious and heartfelt rendition of 'Baby Blue' with a chorus of Biz Markie's 'Just a Friend' mixed in.
The third Musketeer in Bronson's rotund crew, Big Body Bes, also jumped in to the fun on a few songs, but the entire set was building toward the end, when Bronson briefly left the stage. With Bronson backstage for a few seconds, his exquisite producer/DJ, the Alchemist (more on him later) cued up the first few notes of 'Easy Rider,' which brought the crowd's excitement up a notch.
As the intro to Bronson's biggest hit began to wind down, the rapper reappeared on stage carrying a roughly 5-foot tall stuffed monkey over his shoulder. The monkey was then tossed into the audience, where it was already starting to be ripped apart by the time Bronson could rap even the first "Ride the Harley into the sunset."
At the conclusion of "Easy Rider," Bronson and Alchemist walked off the stage with one fist in the sky, before returning moments later for an encore of "Amadu Diablo." To sum up the slightly goofy and extremely audience-based set, Bronson picked up a puppy (presumably his puppy) from his posse on the side of the stage and held it for a moment before pretending to throw the somewhat-terrified dog into the crowd. Instead, the rapper merely brought the pup with him as he exited the stage.
Is Bronson the best lyricist on the planet? Maybe not, but he's awfully good. Does he have the best flow? Again, probably not, but he's likely in the top tier of current guys. Does he consistently put on some of the most crowd-friendly energetic rap performances of the decade? Absolutely, and this was no different.
Standing in the robust shadow of Bronson, the Alchemist deserves every bit of credit he gets both as a producer and on the turntables. All too often, fast-paced spontaneous hip-hop sets are slowed down by clumsy DJs and lame hype men. The Alchemist flawlessly assists Bronson through his set, giving him the opportunity for spontaneous acapella moments, while smoothly mixing one beat into the next and setting the pace for the entire show.