Review: Talib Kweli adopts jam-band tactics at Observatory
Local hip-hop heads likely got more than they bargained for during rapper Talib Kweli’s headlining performance on Sunday night at Santa Ana’a Observatory.
Normally, Kweli performs with a simple setup: the standard two-turntable DJ and one microphone for himself. For this tour and gig, the old-school rhyme-smith was flanked by full band – keyboards, guitar, drums, bass and DJ – that enhanced his stage presence tenfold.
With these talented gentlemen in tow, the concert felt much like a classic showcase from the legendary Roots crew, complete with enriched beats on well-known cuts such as “I’m On One” and “Distractions,” plus intermittent jam sessions and a few impressively enlivened cover songs.
Among those borrowed tunes, highlights included Kweli’s cover of the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep till Brooklyn” (played here as the set’s opener dedicated to late member Adam Yauch aka MCA), a fun-loving, fully-improvised run-through of Tyga’s “Rack City” and a snippet of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” which served as the sing-along-worthy hook to his Kanye West-produced track, “Lonely People.”
Another Ye-produced song, “Get ‘Em High,” resulted in one of the evening’s liveliest reactions (and slew of blunts and joints lighting up across the room). Yet, of course, the highly revered Black Star material (traditionally done alongside Kweli’s old group-mate, Mos Def) – including verses from “Definition,” “RE: DEFinition” and “K.O.S. (Determination)” – garnered the loudest cheers and chants.
From a personal standpoint, however, I was most taken with the group’s grand display during the jazz-heavy number, “Wait For You,” released on last year’s full-length, Gutter Rainbows.
After that track’s first verse, Kweli began introducing band members one-by-one, each presentation followed by an incredible solo – ranging from zany jazz to whirlwind rock - worthy of the most jam-heavy Stevie Wonder show.
Think ?uestlove & the Roots have got the hip-hop-jam-band-crossover on lock? Time to keep a sharp lookout for Kweli’s current crew.