Lil Wayne at the Xcel Energy Center, 8/10/11
Lil Wayne is in a hurry to make up for lost time. Coming off a career-interrupting prison stint, the self-proclaimed best rapper alive picked up where he left off, resuming the rigorous road schedule that made him one of the top grossing acts before his untimely incarceration at Rikers.
But our man is hardly content to offer one concert when he can instead provide no less than nine separate "sections," each touching on one of the many faces of Weezy. And with a career catalog as wildly uneven as Mr. Carter's, it was bound to make for a roller coaster of a show.
Weezy sure knows how to make an entrance. The first set of songs was the only grouping that didn't have a handy section title, but it can be summed up in two words: spittin' fire. Beginning appropriately enough with "I'm Goin In," the pride of Cash Money came hurtling onto the stage like he was shot out of a cannon. He bragged about his Cash Money in "Bill Gates," then segued into "A Milli" to demonstrate how he earned that million-dollar suitcase. "Got Money" rounded out the celebration of excess and brought us to the next act.
Mix Tape Section
All true Lil Wayne fans know that many of his best work is buried on mixtapes. The Drought series rivals his major label work and in some ways surpasses it because Weezy was made for the underground. With so much to choose from--"No Ceilings," his recent Adele cover from Sorry 4 the Wait--the paltry four tracks in this suite failed to lived up to expectations. Starting out with "Go DJ"--from Tha Carter, which wasn't even a mixtape--Wayne squandered the opportunity, limping through "Swag Surfin," "Wasted," and "Ice Cream." But it was about to get worse--much worse.
Where's Weezy? The show feels like its barely started and already he's handing off the mic to Shanell. Wayne introduces her via duet on "Motivation," but it quickly becomes Shanell's show for "My Button" and "Hair Down My Back," by which time the beefy white guys who had been mouthing every Weezy lyric were staring at each other quizzically. Back in the old days, this is what would have been called "an opening act," and it would have happened before most people arrived, rather than dragging the main event to a screeching halt.
Self Made Section
And Weezy's back! He comes hard with his verse of "John" (one half of his joint with opener Rick Ross) and then goes into "I'm on One," his recent hit with Drake. Weezy had dug himself a hole with that Shanell interlude, and these back-to-back hits bring him just about back to ground zero.
Wayne Break Section
Those two songs must have tuckered him out, because Weezy F. retires to the backstage while DJ 4our5ive Spin tried to overcome the hurdle of having the world's worst DJ name. Meanwhile, a giant walkway descended from the ceiling to cleave the crowd in two, hanging menacingly overhead like the sword of Damacles.
"We are not the same, I am a martian." With those words, Wayne left behind his earthbound confines and took off into a Ziggy Stardust trip. Unfortunately, like the mixtape section, this sequence doesn't quite live up to the hype. Instead, we get "Steady Mobbin'," which is a far cry from sci-fi. "Mr. Carter" led into a brief discussion of his incarceration, and a thank you to the fans who kept him in mind with "Miss Me." This is not the LouisiAlien we were looking for.
Grown Folk Section
By far Weezy's most irredeemable work has been his many failed attempts at penning a truly transcendent love song. The tries are almost invariably an occasion for lazy lyricism and bad autotuned crooning. After a long crowd response bit that culminated in a declaration that he can't sleep with girls if they're underage, Weezy descended into the depths of his perversion. "Mrs. Officer" came off like a strip tease replete with fishnet-clad lady officers seducing the ex-con. "Prostitute" played out on a dungeon sex rack. But the acoustic arrangement of "Lollipop" was a nice showing of musicianship. Unfortunately, the moment was ruined by "How 2 Love," the prototypical example of the aforementioned autotuned crooning.
All the "true fans" know that this acronym stands for "Young Money Cash Money Billionaires," but the real fans know that what it really means is bad rapping by Gudda Gudda and Mack Maine. That would come later--on "Bedrock"--but first Weezy unleashed the highlight of the set: "Fire Flame" by Birdman, who showed up for the duet. This is as close as this new, sober Wayne got to his free spirited, drank-infused glory, and it was enough to sustain the later cameos by lesser stars.
City Life Section
Clearly, Wayne has exhausted all the naming creativity, because this sounds more like a section of the weekend Star Tribune. It turns out to be a catch-all category. After explaining that he was never able to tour behind the much-maligned "Rebirth" due to his legal entanglements, Wayne went on to show how lucky we were to miss it by displaying his wankerific guitar playing. Dropping the charade, he launched into an angry but busted version of "Drop the World," and then did a spoken word rendition of "Nightmares of the Bottom," off the upcoming Carter IV. After encouraging the audience to change for one more song, Weezy came back with a bombastic rendition of "Six Foot Seven Foot." He then took off his shoes, handed them out to lucky members of the crowd, donned a boxing robe, and retired to whatever it is sober Weezy does after a show these days.
Personal bias: A huge fan of the Drought series of mixtapes, lately I've worried that Weezy F. Baby has lost his way.
I'm Goin In
Look at Me Now
Right Above It
MIX TAPE SECTION
Hair Down My Back
SELF MADE SECTION
John (Wayne verse only)
I'm on One
WAYNE BREAK SECTION
DJ 4our5ive Spin
GROWN FOLK SECTION
How 2 Love
Money to Blow
CITY LIFE SECTION
Drop the World
Nightmares of the Bottom
Six Foot Seven Foot
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.