Do you remember your first REAL concert? I sure do – I was going to be a freshman in high school, and my brother and his friends were going into their senior year. They had an extra ticket to the Doobie Brothers and I was able to grab it and join them (yeah, I REALLY just dated myself). Not only was it my first concert, it was the first time I drank a full beer, and the first time I experienced the smell of marijuana – the old Boston Garden was a haze of pot smoke and I’m pretty sure everyone got a ‘proximity high’. Not exactly how I wanted my kids to experience THEIR first concert!
This summer my 14-year old son is making some money working through the youth bureau in town: he has helped an elderly gentlemen set up his first computer (while we contemplate ‘gestures’, my son is helping this guy tell email and Facebook apart!), and also helping a woman prepare the the home and yard of her deceased mother for sale. He is working his butt off, so when he discovered that an artist he likes – Kid Cudi – was coming to the area, he wanted to go and pay his own way. What could my wife and I say, except ‘you pay for yourself and I will go with you’! (In the case of my wife, she meant ‘your father’). So he got a friend to come along (I put my son on the hook for the $55 ticket, which motivated him to collect!), and we bought some good tickets in the front section up at theon the lake.
The show was very well done, from security to organization to sound and of course the performers. It was loud, but as it was Rap/R&B it was heavy on the bass side. I found an interesting contrast that when I went to see groups like The Who or The Police my ears would ring for a couple of days … but seeing this I felt my internal organs being shaken but the next day no ringing. Of course, the difference is the frequency distribution of the different genres.
Kid Cudi is more of a singer than a rapper, but more than anything else he is a showman and entertainer. His opening act – Chip the Ripper – was more the prototypical rapper with the language and the attitude and the misogyny and the inarticulate sayings from a clearly articulate person and so on. Also, CHip the Ripper was a rapper playing against the backdrop provided by one guy manning a digital music station – no instruments.
But Kid Cudi had a BAND – and they actually played like a band. He was the obvious frontman, but everyone had an important role – drums, guitar, synth & bass, and turntables. Better still, the unit was TIGHT, and they could play stuff from rap to hip-hop to searing rock without anything feeling affected. Kid Cudi himself worked the stage and the audience, never losing engagement, properly pacing and building energy until he ended with a three-song barrage that was like a sonic onslaught – it ended, you were satisfied, and they were done.
Too often I see clips of pop acts that are more like cabaret full of costumes and lip-syncing, or rappers who are all about themselves, or acts from all popular genres who remind us that they really only exist because a studio can make them sound good. All too seldom do we have someone playing music that is hip with young kids – I would put the age range mostly in the 16 – 25 grouping, putting me a full two decades beyond most of the audience – who brings to the stage a classical sense of engagement and entertainment.
It makes a huge difference – the boys said it was one of the most amazing things they had ever seen, and when my wife and the other boy’s parents asked I could genuinely say that Kid Cudi put on an amazing show. Whether or not it is my favored genre is irrelevant – quality entertainment knows no bounds, and I truly believe in the power of good music. So I applaud Kid Cudi and hope others take inspiration and produce genuine, audience-centric entertainment for decades to come without succumbing to the temptations of lazy musical performance we see all too often.
Here is a little snip from the group playing Jimi Hendrix’ Hey Joe (not their best song, but hey – I knew this one!):