Big Boi at Epic, 11/9/12

Big Boi at Epic, 11/9/12
Tony Nelson

Big Boi
with Get Cryphy
Epic, Minneapolis
November 9, 2012

"One more?" the DJ asked. He stood there awkwardly at the corner of the stage, not sure what to do with himself. "Big Boi, one more?"

For an uncomfortably long couple minutes Friday night, it looked like Big Boi's DJ hadn't gotten the memo about doing an encore. He'd strutted back onto the stage at Epic, triumphantly answering the calls of the crowd, and scratched playfully at his turntable. But, gradually, it dawned on him that he was the only one who'd come back, and after several attempts to coax the others out, he shuffled briskly off stage.

At long last, Big Boi returned -- but just barely, if would seem. Dressed, as he had been all night, with a brightly-colored baseball hat and a pair of dark sunglasses, but now also with a puffy red and black winter jacket, he looked very much like a man who had one foot out the door. And, just to add an extra layer of irony to the moment, the song he played was -- wait for it -- "You Ain't No DJ."

See Also:
Slideshow: Big Boi at Epic

That episode aside, though, it wouldn't exactly be fair to say that Big Boi just phoned things in on this, his first show in Minnesota for 18 months. True enough, it was hardly an electrifying performance, but then that wasn't entirely his fault, either. In fact, all things considered, he sounded good: His raps were tight, fast when they needed to be, and his band -- which included a live drummer and bassist -- gave a much-needed edge to the songs, especially the instrumental breaks on "B.O.B." and, yes, even "You Ain't No DJ."

Where the Atlanta rapper seemed to be let down the most was, unfortunately, with the venue itself. For starters, the acoustics weren't very good, the ricocheting effect making it sound like Big Boi was playing inside a metal box for most the night. And, together with a mix that only helped further muddy his voice up, it was often hard to hear much more than a hook.

Big Boi at Epic, 11/9/12
Tony Nelson

Perhaps most troubling, however, was the dreadfully poor crowd turnout. Logic would suggest that any Outkast-related show -- even if it's only one half of Outkast -- ought to be a guarantee to get people in the door. Yet the crowd that showed up seemed like it was barely at half-capacity. Periodically the house lights would flash on in the middle of a song, then quickly shut off again, as though someone realized they were only drawing attention to the emptiness of the room.

But if Big Boi's work was, to some extent, cut out for him, then he also didn't go out of his way to make up the difference. He worked through several of his older hits early in the set, but as much as it was fun to hear "Rosa Parks," "So Fresh, So Clean," and "Ms. Jackson" all in succession, it was a little disappointing to only get half of each, as though merely parts of a medley. (Not surprisingly, Big Boi didn't bother to include Andre 3000's verses. Imagine that.) When he laid into his more recent work later in the night -- especially a couple of brand-new songs he claimed "no one in the world's heard," but which, oddly, didn't include "Lines," the song he released that very afternoon -- the MC seemed much more engaged.

He even let his hype man, fellow ATL rapper BlackOwned C-Bone, do plenty of the heavy lifting -- probably a little too much, all things told. C-Bone relied on some rather, er, original lines to help get the crowd going, such as, "How many cool people do we have in the house? Raise your hands if you're cool!" or simply repeating the phrase "New shit" when the newer songs were played. "Biggie," as C-Bone called him, even let his friend take over the mike for one of his own songs, where, almost inevitably, he invited all the ladies to join him on stage.

Yet it was to be another member of Big Boi's entourage who provided the night with probably its most surreal moment. Immediately after the main set had ended, and before the DJ's mini-epiphany, a man in a white T-shirt ran on stage, grabbed the mike, and began admonishing the crowd, some of whom were already heading toward the door. "You have to support your local clubs!" he demanded. "Go and buy some more drinks. We have to keep these places in business."

Perhaps his heart was in the right place, but frankly, it was hard to make any sense of what he was saying. If the night wasn't a success, it had little to do with the people who bothered to show up -- especially those who were still there, asking, and hoping, for more.

Big Boi at Epic, 11/9/12
Tony Nelson

Critics Bias: I'm still, believe it or not, pretty excited to hear this new album of his.

The Crowd: During Cryphy's set, the all danced and sang along to House of Pain. But when P.O.S. came on? They looked lost.

Overheard in the Crowd: "That guy's too good of a dancer. He's scaring all the girls away!"

Random Notebook Dump: If any one person threw down Friday night, it was Minneapolis' own, MaLLy. He was in and out on the mike during Cryphy's (typically fun) two-hour warm-up for Big Boi, and he pretty well owned it.

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