Method Man & Redman, B-Real, Berner, Mick Jenkins House of Blues November 17, 2014
Fans had every excuse in the book to skip last night's stop on the Smokers' Club "World Wide Rollers" tour. It fell on a Monday, for one thing, and at the venue with the strictest anti-smoking policy in town...not exactly an ideal fit for a package tour that's all about the stickiest of the icky. And on a night when smokers were forced to keep the blunt cherried just to keep warm, too!
So, maybe it was only ever going to be the hardcore fans -- the real, no-hope stoner types -- who turned up at House of Blues last night, and even they wouldn't be in much of a mood to scream and shout. Getting this party to rock was going to be a job for professionals.
Luckily, a few showed up. After more than 20 years in the game, decorated East Coast veterans Method Man and Redman have refined the hip-hop live experience to a clean-burning science, and they had Cypress Hill's B-Real along for the road trip -- possibly because he rolls the best joints. If this crew couldn't get a few hoodies unzipped inside House of Blues, we were in for a long night.
By the time I made it in out of the cold, Bay Area MMJ patient Berner was working hard to wear down the crowd full of crossed arms in front of him. While I'm never in favor of MCs rapping over CD tracks, Berner still did a nice job of commanding the large stage alone, and it was at least a pleasure to see someone enjoying himself uninhibitedly.
"Getting to smoke weed around the world and promote peace with these legends is paradise to me," he told the gently swelling audience.
For their part, though, audience members seemed to still be saving the joints and blunts they'd snuck in for the big boys. A lot of them were busted out next for B-Real, one of weed-rap's most enduring O.G.s. The Cypress Hill front man raised the energy in the room several notches with the opening combination of "When the Shit Goes Down" and "How I Could Just Kill a Man," the latter of which was milked for maximum singalong effect.
His whole set was a bouncy delight, stacked with his best-loved Cypress Hill verses -- a large number of which were composed in praise of the herb. "High So High" was trotted out, as were "Dr. Greenthumb" and "Hits From the Bong." Berner even came back out to tag-team a new track touting the pleasures of wax and shatter.
By the time he got around to "Insane in the Brain," the crowd hadn't exactly gone loco yet, but they were at least moving around. And smoking. Finally, House of Blues was beginning to smell like a music venue.
But if the audience thought it was going to simply coast through a performance from Method and Red, they were quickly and rudely disabused of that notion. Before the DJs had even finished their sound check, Method Man went to work on the fans, telling them they were expected to be full participants in the show.
When the response garnered by set opener "Let's Get Retarded" fell short of those expectations, Meth put us on notice.
"All we ask is that you give us some of this energy back," he cajoled. "If we on ten and y'all on five, it ain't gon' work."
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Happily, there was never any real danger that the duo wouldn't wring every last drop of energy out of the crowd. Method and Red carry themselves not as rappers, but as full-blown entertainers, and they know every trick in the rap-show book. We were commanded to put our hands up, to jump up and down, to smoke big killa and to dance, and it was hard not to when the guys onstage were breaking off slick-choreographed steps up there.
For the most part, the performance served as a '90s retrospective, with the Wu-era headbangers wearing down the last holdouts in the crowd. "Method Man" was predictably a highlight, bringing the last holdouts in the dark to life at last.
Crowd participation was a constant, with the longtime partners calling out specific members of the audience who weren't getting crunk enough. During a tribute to Wu Tang legend ODB, they started a mosh pit during the chorus of "Shimmy Shimmy Ya." Both took practiced, graceful stage dives and challenged us to scream "Hooooo!"
Not once did they take no for an answer. Their constant incitements were shameless, but highly effective.
By the time they got around to "How High," I put the notebook away. I didn't want to be the only one not waving his hands like he just didn't care anymore. I couldn't tell you what song they closed with, because all I remember is trying to get Method Man to walk on my shoulders. They plugged The Blackout 3, How High 2, then bounced. And Monday, my friends, was over.
Personal Bias: West Coast.
The Crowd: United by the leaf.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Don't you know I'm loco?!"
Random Notebook Dump: Some very nice turntable exhibitions (the hip-hop equivalent of the drum solo) by Allah Mathematics and DJ Dice, who absolutely crushed "Turn Down for What."
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