Monday, May 6, 2013

CONCERT REVIEW: Big Boi & Killer Mike (The Rave, Milwaukee)

It's been seven years since the last Outkast record, Idlewild, a companion piece to their film of the same name, and between doubts that the Georgia duo will ever make another record and André 3000's relative musical inactivity, it's really been up to Big Boi to keep Outkast's eccentric southern spirit alive. He hasn't done a bad job of it either, releasing the energetic, purposeful Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty in 2010 and following it up late last year with Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, an effort he's currently supporting with the current "Shoes for Running" world tour, which pulled into Milwaukee tonight.

In the support slot was longtime Dungeon Family collaborator Killer Mike, whose set didn't get things off on the best foot. It's not that Killer Mike isn't a talented MC, he proved the opposite on the mic here, it was just that it seemed plain and poorly produced. Of course, he's not the headliner, but there were also things within his control that stole some of his momentum, like an extended speech on behalf of wanted Black activist Assata Shakur. It's an important issue, sure, but in this context it'd be more effective to impart a few carefully chosen words and let the music say the rest.

In a perhaps not unintentional contrast, Big Boi's set was a colorful, kinetic affair, with video projections, lights and a gaggle of backup dancers. Assisted by a live drummer, bass player and singer (as well as the obligatory hype-man), he sounded appropriately big and booming throughout a set fairly well balanced between newer material and Outkast classics. That fullness at times got the best of the Rave's sound guy, but, unfortunately, that's something those familiar with the venue should have come to expect by now. Still, that was a minor annoyance, which couldn't derail his high-spirited performance, especially on standouts like "B.O.B." and the new "Mama Told Me".

For how towering a figure he is in rap, and for how good the show turned out to be, it was a little surprising to see the Rave just half-full. Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors may not be performing as well as its predecessor, but whatever you think of the new material, that doesn't quite explain why he failed to pack the place (I mean, it's Daddy Fat Sax!). Perhaps it was that the 2013 Miltown Beat Down finals, featuring DJ Shadow and taking place at the same time downtown, lured away some of the local heads. In any case, it turned out to be their loss.

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