Big Boi @ The Tivoli

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Ago 30 2011, 4:31

Fri 26 Aug – Big Boi, Theophilus London, Thundamentals

Déjà vu. I swear I saw Big Boi and crew perform this exact same set in Sydney last November. Granted, that was a very good set for a three man team: Boi, co-MC Blackowned C-Bone, and DJ Cutmaster Swiff. This time around, his touring unit is filled out by a four-piece band: a drummer, a guitarist, and a two-piece horn section, complete with choreographed dance moves. The latter three wear matching red jumpsuits. It's a pretty full stage for a hip-hop show, especially if you take into account the backdrop used to project music videos synced in time with the setlist.

Part of me wants to let Big Boi off the hook, because this set is so tight that, if I hadn't seen it before, I'd be blown away just like I was nine months ago. The only dull moment comes – strangely – during the encore, when the band stumble through an interminable section filled with ham-fisted solos by each of the musicians, including a scratch session courtesy of Swiff. Things are made even more awkward by the fact that 16 women from the crowd are on stage at this time, attempting to dance simply so that they're not standing still. Moments ago, they were all bumping to 'Tangerine', one of the sexier tracks from Boi's ace 2010 debut, Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty. Then they're left to stand around, taking photos of one another, while the band tread proverbial water until Boi's stage manager moves them to either side of the focal point, Swiff, who queues up 'You Ain't No DJ' and indulges in a teased-out intro before dropping that killer beat.

The other part of me feels short-changed by the fact that, in those nine months since the MC last visited Australia, he's made absolutely zero changes to his live show. There's a lot to be said for conducting a polished 80-minute performance that flows smoothly (except for the aforementioned lull in the encore). There's also a lot to be said for laziness. Adopting a "one size fits all" approach for an entire album cycle's worth of live shows smacks of apathy. The confusing part is that Boi isn't phoning it in. Neither are any of the other guys onstage. But: dude, would it kill you to mix it up a little? Instead of breezing through a medley of three of Sir Luscious' best tracks - 'General Patton', 'Follow Us' and 'Daddy Fat Sax' - in two minutes, how about airing them in full? A chorus from each track is a bit of a joke, especially when you play some of that album's weaker tracks ('Shine Blockas', 'Fo Yo Sorrows') in their entirety. Although 'Sorrows' is understandable, I suppose, as it fulfils the contractual obligation for every rapper in history to dedicate a song to those in the house holding pot.

The Outkast songs, too, are rushed. 'ATLiens' runs into 'Skew It On The Bar-B' meets 'Rosa Parks'. 'Ghetto Musick', 'B.O.B.' and 'The Way You Move' all segue into one another. So too do 'Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik', 'Player's Ball' and 'Elevators'. During these medleys, the projector cheesily announces each track in capital letters, which shows just how rigidly this performance is structured. There's not a second left over for improvisation, for stretching; for breathing. Tonight is probably interchangeable with any other night of Boi's last year spent touring this record, and that is a fucking shame. It's the hip-hop equivalent of clocking on, putting in the requisite work, then clocking off. Afterparty, hotel room, airport, flight, soundcheck, repeat. Maybe I'm not the only one feeling déjà vu.

The Vine

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