Thursday, December 17, 2009

Concert Review: Lady Gaga & Kid Cudi

Soon after Man on the Moon: The End of Day dropped, I made it a top priority to go and see what this Scotty Mescudi guy was all about. I'll admit, after seeing the video of him performing Cudi Zone on the BET Rising Icons show, I bought hard into his stock. Truth be told the album is still growing on me and after seeing his new video for Pursuit of Happiness (produced by Josh Hartnett) I've gained an even bigger appreciation for his ability to put out material (songs, albums, performances) that sticks to you and finds a way to become memorable because of how unafraid he is to tell us his story in his own unique, sometimes trippy, depressing, but vulnerable way. The video takes us to a bottle popping, lush party atmosphere that serves as the backdrop for the internal emotional struggle centered concept of the song...exhibiting a fun, dreamy, slow motion beginning that ultimately ends in a very palpable, high-coming-down sort of emotional crash that the song warns will happen if you continue the jaded path of believing everything that shines will turn to gold...check out the video:

Nice to see the Drake cameo in there too, further entwining two of the most promising, up and coming leaders of Hip Hop.

Anyways, the first I was more confused and apathetic to the fact that Cudi would be opening for Gaga. Confused because Gaga is more pop vs Cudi's Hip Hop sound and apathetic because as much as I felt a little misplaced attending a Lady Gaga concert, I still consider myself a casual fan of some of her work (mostly with Akon and the under appreciated production of RedOne on her first album). As much of a stretch as seeing her in concert first seemed for me personally, Enya could have been the main act and I still would have went to see Cudi perform. It did help though, that prior to the concert I legitimately started becoming more of a fan of her work after giving her latest bonus disk release Fame Monster a full listen.

So I'm now headed to the concert, making it around Philly and into Jersey no problem with very limited traffic, a true blessing for those who have made that trek. With me, I brought a true hardcore Lady Gaga fan who I knew would dumb out every bit as much for her as I planned on doing for Cudder. We get parked, speed walk past a few local Camden dealers and pushers (not kidding I was offerred Crack is Crack Beer by the way?) and get in maybe 15 mins before Cudi starts his set.

Those 15 minutes, I vaulted up at least ten spots in the people watcher of the year rankings, trying to predict and and gauge just how this concert was going to turn on based on the type of audience, setting, energy, seating etc. (if you've read previous concert reviews you know the criteria that I judge concerts by).

I'll say this, if you've ever seen how Lady Gaga dresses (here, here, oh can't forget these) or went anywhere on Halloween this year, you come to her show fully aware of the potential for I'll call it "boundless fashion individuality". Actually being at the concert was not a let down when it came to gaudy displays of attention grabbing outfits. I'll be the first one to admit, I'd rather be looking at something different than something ordinary. To me it's human nature to be visually entertained by things like over-the-top fashion.

Now I'm sure there were also a good deal of just Hip Hop fans that were mortified and saw it more as a freak show...I say to each their own and didn't look down or judge the fact that the audience was a predominantly homosexual crowd mixed with a large contingency of teen girls who idolize Lady Gaga. Despite not fitting into either of those demographics by any stretch of the imagination, I have been to a gay bar or two before and managed to have a good time with straight friends who were just as open minded and secure in their sexuality as me...lesbihonest, even though in-your-face flamboyance can be a little unnerving at times to non-homosexuals like myself, everyone is just trying to be themselves and have a good time. You can draw your own conclusions from this statement, but generally speaking, I think the crowd was one of the more energetic, fun crowds I had been to at a concert.

As the show starts, Cudi picks an interesting track to come out to, spittin' the chorus off his new guest spot from Jay-Z's Blueprint 3 album titled Already Home. I think so far that's the only track that hasn't been made a single off Blueprint 3...check it out:

Honestly, it was a decent entrance, one that I definitely didn't see coming, but he reeled me back in with one of my favorites Soundtrack to My Life. Despite sounding a little rushed live, I marked it off my mental list of tracks I went to the concert to see.

Followed was another out of left field offering with one of his older tracks Embrace the Martian. I was left feeling like I had completely slept on that track, digging the uptempo vibe and outer space lyrics that he's become known for. My favorite part of his set came next when he blacked out the stage and became a rigid automaton, performing a characteristically dark rendition of one of his more unique offerings Mr. Solo Dolo. Check it:

That's some straight up Trent Reznor style loner music and I dig the hell out of it. But he quickly snapped us out of that spell with his surprisingly uptempo Crookers remix of Day n Nite, which I thoroughly appreciated for it's change of pace and was deadly when followed by his quick crowd energy boost Memories interlude (off David Guetta's album). That definitely got the crowd movin' and showed a little bit of crowd recognition by Cudi, which he deserves some dap for.

As Memories faded off, his set was clearly coming to an end and again he took us back down a few notches performing the cerebral, introspectively raw and emotional new single Pursuit of Happiness. Again, A+ for the dark, but dream-like lighting with the blue spotlight outlining Cudi, allowing him to barely stand out visually, while maintaining the focus on the lullabye-esque piano and assailable lyrics. A masterpiece of emotional angst, where happiness can be more of a mental perception than actual reality...and Cudi put it on display in a very simple, but appropriate way on stage.

Overall I'd give Cudi a B for performance and A- for choice of tracks/set list, averaging out to a B+ in my book. Most fans in attendance clearly weren't there to see him perform and a more intimate, smaller venue would only serve to enhance the likability and appreciation of his live act.

Between sets I'm pretty sure I heard every single Michael Jackson hit imaginable and it couldn't have been more crowd appropriate. Let's just say lots of dancing, mostly men, and there was of course choreography too. But finally, over an hour later I got to experience an unforgettably hype moment as Lady Gaga's set began. If you are going to a future concert please don't press play below because I don't want to ruin the genuine excitement I felt when I saw it in person. Otherwise, check it out:

Honestly, the only thing I can compare it to is that feeling I get of unbridled excitement when you witness a sports team win a championship...where you literally find yourself in perceptual overload, slightly jumping, geeking out, damn near giggling like a little girl because your body doesn't know how to handle the excitement. The intro, with the extremely well blended techno version of Finally It's Happened to Me while the clock counted down to her coming on stage was absolutely ON POINT! It definitely had me going back to her Fame Monster album post concert to listen to Dance in the Dark more than a couple times. It's definitely fast paced euro-pop, but the chorus is infectious and fits really well with her "be yourself no matter what anyone tells you" attitude she exudes. It was at this moment that I started to get the inclination that Lady Gaga is slowly becoming the 21st century version of Madonna. The way she performs, the provocative dress, unapologetic demeanor, sassy and at times explicit tongue...the whole package is eerily similar, the only real difference is that the current generation of fans she is endeared to are that much more hell bent on being unique and have the in your face audacity to act and dress however they want.

As the concert went on, I felt more and more like I was at a play rather than a concert. Between every 3-4 songs there was a costume change as an strange succession of disturbing images flashed across the stage, with rave-like techno music to keep the crowd energy up. The different outfits definitely didn't sell her reputation short, they were just as off the wall unique as the above examples of her individuality show. To me it was mind boggling how much set preparation and planning needed to be done for a performance like the one I was watching. From the ever changing, at times elaborate set, to the choreography, to the props, it was all a huge show. My favorite part of her set was when she showed me some genuine talent and performance creativity with her soulful rendition of Poker Face, giving me a feeling like I was experiencing a side of her that a studio recording couldn't show.

Even more, after the acapella, I bet you can't guess who made his way onto stage...none other than Scotty who helped her do a concert-style mash up of his Make Her Say (which samples Poker Face.

Pretty cool to see it all come together, where pop can mesh with new school Hip Hop, ignoring all perceived musical differences and boundaries to put on an entertaining, fun duet.

As the concert continued, I realized just how much of her music I hadn't really given a listen to yet. Much of it wasn't really up my alley, but I continued to have a good time and be pretty well entertained by all of the visually elements. It definitely turned into one of the longest concerts I had been to and again, kudos to Gaga, anyone who takes the time to put on a set that is over 2 hours long must really enjoy performing and feel like she owes the audience for coming out to see her. From Alejandro, to Just Dance, to Paparazzi, to Teeth, to Fashion, a really really crunk version of Love Game, to Monster (by the way be ready to be referred to as little monsters when you attend her concert) to a memorable and emotional candlelight version of Speechless which left me...well...speechless...Gaga did a great job that night.

It was exhausting standing for that long and having so much happen in front of me...but it was also a great experience that I was glad I got to be a part of. Of course, she left us with her current hit, Bad Romance, which was a culmination of all of her visual elements, sort of like when everyone comes on stage at the end of a play and every possible prop is was like that except everyone was singing along with her this time. I only got to hear the first half of the song cause I wasn't about to be stuck in Jersey traffic til 1 am when I had to be at work the next day.

Overall, I had a really good time at the concert and would fully endorse attending as long as you were not an impressionable young girl. Both acts were visually pleasing in their own right and did a great job in putting on a never-ending 3 hour plus party that constantly encouraged the crowd to do, act and most importantly dress however they want. I'll always be a big fan of artists that preach independence and are advocates for social acceptance. I now have a new found respect for Lady Gaga and her visually extravagant, sometimes alarmingly different show she puts on as she fully embraces being seen as a world-wide pop icon. I hope her music keeps evolving the way it did from her first album The Fame to her bonus disk The Fame Monster.

Cudi I look forward to hopefully seeing you in a slightly smaller venue and am very very wary that you will not be able to top the first album you put it because in my eyes it is and will continue to be seen as a classic effort. I am a huge fan of your depressingly candid music and I hope as your career continues to take off you keep doing your own Solo Dolo music wise. And next time just give the wallet to a security guy dude!

***UPDATE***: Now as of yesterday, Kid Cudi has left the Monster Ball tour "in order to balance his schedule surrounding the recording of his next album and acting commitments"...all commitments that weren't an issue a week ago...before he supposedly took a swing at an audience member at his last concert in Vancouver...see video below at 1:28.

Honestly I'd be pretty pissed too if some random fan threw their wallet at me on stage, then I was nice enough to try and return the wallet to him in the crowd, when another fan who intercepted the wallet return exchange throws it back in my face. Who throws their wallet in the first place though? Seriously? Oh well, clearly its turning into a mini-Ron Artest moment with him now leaving the tour. Don't fret though, Jason Derulo is coming to save the day as he had already committed to tour dates in Janurary on the same Monster Ball tour opening up for Cudi and Gaga. Now he will be bumped up to main supporter. Source: [The Rap Up]


Jess December 18, 2009 at 1:25 PM  

Cool T, enjoyed that...and will enjoy my shot at some Gaga lovin' in a couple of weeks.

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