B.o.B. does not seem to be holding anything back.
The hip-hop M.C., aka Bobby Ray, had so much sweat pouring off him by the end of his set on Sunday night at the Ogden Theatre, he looked like he’d gone ten rounds in the ring.
He bobbed, he weaved. He sang his heart out, and he rapped like a madman. At times, he laid it down so fast it was just consonants held together with spit and air. The crowd knew what he was saying, though. Some of them were even able to keep up.
And he danced, sometimes with his crew, which included a guitarist, a bass guitarist, a drummer, a DJ and two back-up singers –- and with all of that, we got a rich, textured sound. Add two “fly girls” for extra visuals, and this was one full-on stage show.
Mostly, though, it was Bobby Ray working the stage from one end to the other, throwing out his infectious grin, keeping things flowing. He crowd surfed. He signed Adidas sneakers and tossed them to desperate hands. In every sense of the word, he interacted.
Not only that, the man from Atlanta that they sometimes call Bob, sometimes spell out, sometimes say “Bobby Ray,” had much of the packed (but not sold out) house gasping when he strapped on a guitar for about a third of his songs, and later even sat down at a piano. “Oh my god, he plays an instrument,” said the girl behind me. “That’s so hot.”
Yeah, the guy’s got skills. And he’s only 21.
What we knew and already liked about Bobby Ray is that with only one major album out, his debut “B.o.B. Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray,” he’s easy to access, as a performer and musically.
This is entry-level hip-hop –- as evidenced by the 16-to-21 year olds that made up the majority Sunday night –- with pop hooks and just enough sex, drugs and meaning in the music to make it real.
B.o.B. ran through all the hits, and we didn’t even miss the artists from the originals. Their sound came courtesy of either the DJ or were covered by the backup. “Past My Shades” segued seamlessly and minus Lupe Fiasco at the beginning of the set out of “I See Ya” –- B.o.B. is a monster masher, by the way, so flawlessly blending one tune into the next that you might miss it if you aren’t paying attention –- and “Magic” was such a thumping, grinning, rousty romp, all I can say is, Rivers Cuomo who?
We didn’t have to miss Playboy Tre; the opening artist came back out for an easygoing version of their “Bet I.” Sadly, Tre and the other support, GLC, had played so briefly (each for about 23 minutes) that they’d barely been able to get anything going, and so it was nice to see him again. “Don’t Let Me Fall” now has a Denver connection –- the video was shot during the two days before the concert, around downtown and in the mountains, according to the band.
When the piano was rolled out for the encore, serious B.o.B. fans knew it could only mean the emotional “Ghost in the Machine,” which showcased a Bobby Ray voice that was still going strong, followed by “Airplanes,” usually all about the haunting refrains from Paramore’s Hayley Williams, but here they let the rap do the talking, letting “wish right now” fade to the back. And then Bobby Ray said he felt as though he wanted to give us something special, and so he did: MGMT’s “Kids.”
It’ll be fun to see if B.o.B. has more musical gifts in store for us down the road.
Kyle Wagner is a music freak and journalist at The Denver Post.
Brittany Moore is a Boulder-based photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out more of her work and her blog here.