Kool Keith at the Belmore/New Skyway Lounge, 12/12/12
With Marijuana Deathsquads
The Belmore/New Skyway Lounge, Minneapolis
December 12, 2012
Mid-week shows in winter are typically where good gigs go to die in Minneapolis. It takes a special type of artist to rise above the often crippling cold and work-related malaise that settles in over the city, which in turn keeps most music fans in for the night as they save themselves for the weekend. The live performances that manage to transcend these seasonal obstacles typically end up being some of the best shows of the year, simply because everyone in the club knows just how much it took to leave their warm homes and head out into the frigid night.
Kool Keith's weak, unbalanced 65-minute performance at the Belmore/New Skyway Lounge on Wednesday night (technically early Thursday morning) was the type of scattershot, passionless show where you were left wondering why you even bothered to come down to the club at all.
On a run of shows that Keith has salaciously dubbed the Crotchless Panties Tour, you should expect a set filled with profane, highly sexualized songs. And indeed, the MC did draw liberally from the vulgar tracks in his prodigious back catalog, as well as during three sleazy, insipid freestyles (touching on topics as disparate as Kobe Bryant and Mr. Magoo) which dragged down the early portion of the set. But the few ladies that were in the house didn't connect at all to his crude come-ons, despite his best efforts to "get their panties wet," and the club slowly emptied as the show wore painfully on.
All of that thinly-veiled misogyny could have possibly been overlooked if the rest of the set would have been on fire. But Keith consistently delivered just the hooks and choruses from his biggest hits in 30-second snippets, while brazenly neglecting even a verse from those songs (due to either time constraints or the fact that he couldn't remember his rhymes). So we got just a small, frustrating taste of such hits as "The God of Rap," "Do Not Disturb," "Black Elvis," "White Label Test Press," "Sly We Fly," and "Earth People." Plenty of hip-hop stars do medleys of their biggest hits (in order to put more focus on the new songs they are peddling), but I've never seen an artist just do the hooks of their songs and nothing else. It was a totally weak move by Keith, and made the set sound like a poorly executed mix-tape.
When he did choose to deliver more than just a fragment of his hits, the results were uneven as well. "Blue Flowers" will always be a club banger, as was the Ultramagnetic MC's classic, "Two Brothers With Checks," and both jams got the crowd moving for one of the only times during the set. But sultry, hyper-sexualized renditions of "Girl Let Me Touch You" and "Sex Style" just seemed to ring hollow in a slowly clearing room that was mostly filled with dudes. Keith obviously has plenty of lyrical talent and a truly distinct flow, but it seemed that he wasn't all that interested in giving his fans what they wanted and instead turned the night into a comedy routine that wasn't all that funny at 1:30 on a weekday morning.
"Raise your hand if you like turkey bacon," Keith asked puzzlingly during one point of the show. But that question seemed astute compared to the raunchy later portion of the set. "How many girls want your butt licked?" he asked suggestively, again to a room filled with mostly guys.
"Raise your hand if you have a boring, conservative woman. One that reads books and wears black because she thinks that's edgy." Keith was cracking himself (along with his hypeman and DJ) up at this point, but for most people in the club, they were left shaking their heads in dismay as they left disappointed and disgusted.
Personal Bias: I recognize the genius of Dr. Octagonecologyst, but haven't really identified with much of Kool Keith's recent uneven output.
The Crowd: A good turn out at the start of the set that rapidly dwindled as the performance slowly unraveled.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Hey, Keith just said something about Minnesota. That's us!"
Random Notebook Dump: Sadly, even an opening set by Marijuana Deathsquads couldn't salvage this night. The eight-piece group (with the legendary Freddy Votel joining Ben Ivescu and Drew Christopherson for a three-drummer attack that packed the small Belmore stage) was plagued by sound and technical issues that frustratingly delayed the start of their performance. They soldiered on admirably, but Ryan Olson was clearly agitated and unhappy during the set, as he went back to talk to the sound guy on three different occasions during their all-too-short 20 minute set. Everything seemed to finally click on their untamed, inventive last song which got everyone's heads nodding in time to their riotous rhythms, but MDS sadly had to bring their show to an abbreviated end in order to make time for the headliner.