Monday, February 27, 2023

Live Shows: Talib Kweli and STL GLD, The Middle East, Cambridge, MA 2/23/23

Talib Kweli is an absolutely legendary MC, widely considered to be one of the best around. He's one of those artists I know I need to get more into, especially after seeing him do a few songs with The Soul Rebels back in March. Since I'm trying to get to The Middle East as much as possible before it most likely closes at the end of the year, and STL GLD were opening, the show last week became a must see.

STL GLD have to be a hard opening act to follow. Live bands always have an extra energy to them, and live they have more than a little bit of a punk and metal edge to them. Not that songs like "Wild Style" or "Resisting" have any rap rock in them, but there is an extra swagger to them live. Opening with "Shimmer," possibly their biggest song to date with Darlingside off last year's excellent Rock Boyega, STL GLD pulled out some absolute favorites like "The New Normal Pt. 1." Part of the appeal of their live show is the duality of Moe Pope's laid back but intense flow and Chris Talken's more hardcore screams. They will always be one of those bands that should be much bigger than they are, but for now they have a die hard local fanbase that knows every line to every song. 

Talib Kweli started off his set a little more slow and laid back, and slowly injected energy as it went on. It seemed more like pacing than anything else as he built an already hyped crowd into an ecstatic one. He's been performing for well over twenty years, so he definitely knows how to put on a show. He saved classics like "Get By" and "Definition" (I was hoping he'd pull out some Black Star that night, and of course he did.) 

One of my favorite things Kweli did was a segment of tributes to fellow MCs that have passed on. He did tributes to MF Doom, Guru, Phife Dawg, Trugoy, Bob Marley, J Dilla, and others. It's rare for an artist to cover another in hip hop, and Kweli changed that with his set. The only complaint that some of these tributes were little more than his DJ playing a song while Kweli just commented on the track occasionally. Tributes are great, but that did take up a good percentage of the night.

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