Last night’s Lil Wayne performance at Comfort Dental Amphitheatre was something of a study in contrasts. He made several efforts to let the audience know how thankful he was for their support, issuing surprisingly humble statements. He reviewed a “Top Three” list twice: “I believe in God” took up one spot and “I ain’t shit without you” placed at two and three, respectively. Yet, this was part of the “I Am Music” Tour (under the Colorado umbrella of the unfortunately spelled KS107.5 Back to Skool Jam) — it’s hard to think of a less boisterous label — and Wayne’s parting words before his encore were, “I am the greatest rapper alive.”
The contradictions didn’t stop there, Lil Wayne toeing the line between Southern hip-hop don, R&B Casanova, record salesman and his “Rebirth”-era punk rocker. At the beginning of the night, he burst out from his gigantic, five-by-three, “Hollywood Squares”-like stage set-up with his skateboard in tow, only to run through some old faves like “A Milli.” The sound was surprisingly on point, perhaps because of the balanced existence of a live backing band and a DJ. Weezy’s sharp, nasally voice came through sparklingly at points. The bass was flooring — it could knock the lint off of your shirt — especially during electronically focused tunes like “Go DJ.”
Wayne spent much of the show — euphemism alert — appealing to the female members of the audience. In fact, it would be hard to imagine a more sexually-charged concert outside of one starring R. Kelly. Cracking a joke about menstruation and then showing off a few skateboarding moves (there was a ramp onstage), Wayne brought his right-hand woman, Shanell, up to sing a few for the fairer sex. Then, he rifled through some sultry material like DJ Khaled’s “I’m On One.” Wayne brought out plenty of Young Money guests like Birdman (“Money to Blow” boomed), Lloyd and some particularly righteous verses from Cory Gunz.
Lil Wayne tried to sell his new record, “Tha Carter IV” more often than he played songs off of it, unfortunately optioning to cycle through a couple of terrible “Rebirth” rock tracks late in the show. But, after a few questionable efforts and a prison stint, it wouldn’t be wise to question his place atop a perch perhaps only otherwise occupied by Jay-Z and Kanye West. One concertgoer seemed to think Weezy human at the end of the night, jumped on stage and ran towards him for a hug. A security guard tackled him harder than Ray Lewis and tossed his lifeless body back into the audience like shark chum. Saying, “You don’t want that to happen to you,” humility was nowhere to be found.
Earlier, Rick Ross lumbered his large frame around the stage, intimidating enough to earn his “boss” status. He was the consummate salesman, too, posturing in front of a large banner bearing his upcoming album’s name (“God Forgives, I Don’t”) and having his DJ invoke his label, Maybach Music, between every single song. (There were also the throwback ringing alarms skewered by Aziz Ansari in his Raaaaaaaandy routine.) Ross played to the audience’s favors, touching hits like his “Hustlin’,” “MC Hammer,” DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” and Meek Mill’s “Ima Boss.” The sound levels weren’t as polished as Wayne’s, Ross’s gravelly voice almost as obscured as his sunglass-toting eyes. Lil Wayne, it was clear, was the real boss, here.
Tina Hagerling is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. Check out more of her concert photography.