Review: Blackalicious at the Marquis Theater - Reverb

Blackalicious at the Marquis Theater, 01/18/13 (review)

By Erik Myers

When you’re in the pit at a rap show, don’t put your drinks on the counter. You might end up like me when Blackalicious‘ bass left my jeans soaked.

Friday’s show at the Marquis Theater began with a hype man whose shock of hair recalled Bride of Frankenstein, setting the tone for a performance that never lost its rhythm. The Oakland, Calif., duo was masterful at maintaining energy. There were no plateaus in this set. At the end of each song, either DJ Chief Excel had triggered the next track or the audience was helping Blackalicious build into it, all directed by Gift of Gab and his white, wide-eyed MC counterpart. The performers never seemed satisfied with the generous response, ratcheting up their demands for noise as the night wore on and stopping just short of individually calling out the dudes without hands in the air.

It’s comforting to see such enthusiasm from a group whose popularity peaked more than a decade ago with 2002’s “Blazing Arrow.” Blackalicious performed tracks from every record and EP, touching on the biggest hits within the first 20 minutes.

Gab was good, very capable of the cadence required of songs like “Alphabet Aerobics.” He played the crowd perfectly. The best moment of the night had him leading the crowd in a call-and-response with Excel cutting the “Deception” beat in between, all building up the tension before finally letting it drop. The crowd got to sing the chorus.

Nonetheless, the rapper wasn’t without his struggles.

Perhaps beset by age and the overbearing lung capacity required of his music, Gab was soon exasperated. A few songs in, he was reduced to shouting through his extra-long verses, appearing out of breath.  He let his stage partner take more than a few of his own verses. And maybe it was the stage lights, but Gab looked pale. Though never acknowledged, he might have been powering through a flu.

Later, following a lively rendition of “Side to Side,” came the night’s biggest surprise. “This is a special time for me,” Gab said, pacing the stage. “One week from now, I’ll achieve one year of sobriety. No alcohol, no weed… nothing.” Is a concert a proper venue for this kind of announcement, given the disregard for sobriety all around him? If it felt weird, the crowd didn’t show it. They roared with approval, cueing Gab into the evening’s closer, “Chemical Calisthenics.”

If there was any doubting the evening’s good vibrations afterwards, Gab killed it with his farewell: “I just want to say we appreciate each and every one of you for giving us the opportunity to travel and do our music.” Caught off guard by Gab’s sincerity, the wasted beer at my feet was suddenly less of a loss.

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Electronic blogger Erik Myers is a Denver-based writer and new contributor to Reverb. Follow him on Twitter.

  • Brandon

    It’s not age that’s Gab’s problem. He suffered kidney failure early last year and had a transplant shortly after.