I probably wouldn’t even have bothered with this N*E*R*D concert Sunday night, if I would’ve known it would get in the way of my precious TV viewing, not to mention my physiological need to get 10 hours of sleep a day, plus another 8 hours at night.
I had copped my tickets a week or so earlier, under the impression that I’d be able to watch the series finale of The Wire, which was also taking place Sunday night, a week early on demand, like I always do. But of course HBO had to pull that shit where they announced at the last minute that the finale wouldn’t be on demand until the Monday after it aired, i.e. yesterday.
I was also significantly drunk, and tired, and suffering from -itis by the time I got there. I’ll spare you the grim details other than to note that I didn’t make to bed Saturday night, and I spent Sunday afternoon at this place called Granite City, which is like a knock-off Cheesecake Factory that’s also a microbrewery. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It’s part of a chain.
Suffice it to say that it was a manlier weekend than many men will ever experience.
So I already wasn’t in the best mood for a melody by the time I got there. I was missing the final episode of the best show on TV by default, and I’d done enough damage to my body just that weekend – let alone the first 27 years of my life – that it would’ve been completely justified in just saying fuck it, and finally giving up on me completely, right there in the Pageant.
Also, I could generally give a rat’s ass about N*E*R*D. They’ve had a few hits which I’ve enjoyed over the years, but I think it’s obvious by now the world would be better served if Pharrell and the Asian fellow would just stick to making beats for the Clipse, or whoever. Even the rap stuff that they’ve done that’s really good is not necessarily my kind of thing.
I figured the Neptunes might play some of their hits for other artists, which was part of how I justified even copping tickets in the first place. But standing there before the show, it occurred to me that I wasn’t even sure how they’d go about such a thing, and that they’d probably mostly just be working from those two or three N*E*R*D albums.
And they did. They took to the stage to something that may have been new (I hadn’t heard it before), and people seemed to enjoy it, more so than “Everyone Nose,” the single from their forthcoming album, which they did later on in the evening and which really doesn’t strike me as being that much of a song.
That song and the next few songs in a row all had a sort of Fred Durst rap-rock element. Which seems like an awful idea, and it’s definitely not the sort of thing I would generally listen to of my own volition, in the proper setting for listening to music (i.e. in my mom’s basement with the lights out), but they seemed to work pretty well in a live setting.
In general, the songs that seemed to work the best were the ones that were decidedly aggro, and the requisite songs for the bitches, which the girls really seemed to enjoy. Pharrell pulled the ol’ Ghostface maneuver of pulling some girls from the crowd to dance on stage with him, but they were especially rough-looking. (St. Louis was definitely in the building.) There were also a few guys sprinkled in the mix. Hmm…
The worst songs, and the worst parts of otherwise decent enough songs, were the ones where the other guy in N*E*R*D who’s neither Pharrell nor the Asian fellow raps. What a no-talent. It’s weird, the guy’s like a weed carrier, but he plays a bigger role in many of their songs than you’d think. It’s probably just that he’s so uncharismatic that you wouldn’t actually know it was him to hear him on the radio. You’d have to actually see him in person.
The Asian fellow, meanwhile, played the background, on some contraption that looked like a keyboard hooked up to a laptop computer. But he could’ve just been checking his email the entire time, or playing whatever game it is Asians like to play on their computers. For the longest time, I had this conspiracy that it wasn’t even him, just some Asian guy Pharrell had standing in for him. But then Pharrell mentioned him by name later on in the show, when he was introducing the band.
The band, which consisted of two drummers, a bassist, a guitarist, and maybe some other people, consisted entirely of black guys, oddly enough. They didn’t strike me as being especially virtuosic, but it’s not like you have to be that talented to play rap-rock, and R&B music with the production values of your average rap song. Also, I’m not convinced that half the shit I heard didn’t come from the Asian fellow’s laptop. Maybe that’s what he was up to.
As you might have guessed, the set kinda peaked with “Lap Dance,” the big hit from their first album, and then the big finale was “She Wants to Move,” probably their biggest hit to date. In between the two of those, they brought out motherfucking Common, who did some sort of pro-Obama chant, then launched into versions of “The Light” and “The People” backed by N*E*R*D. I would have preferred a DJ, but what are you gonna do?
Then, after Common went off, Pharrell mentioned some shit about Nelly, which people took to mean that he might be about to bring Nelly out. Of course, as KRS-One might have predicted, the crowd erupted into a chorus of boos. But then Pharrell jumped to Nelly’s defense, talking about how the Neptunes had one of their biggest hits with him, and how he reps STL to the fullest, and how he had sponsored some community service event just the night before.
I was actually kinda surprised by the anti-Nelly sentiment at such an event, but I guess it goes to show what I know about the various divisions in the St. Louis hip-hop community. I was also surprised to see so many black kids dressed up like skaters and… well, teh ghey people, and what have you. It’s was an entire community of people I guess I was aware existed, because I had read about them in the paper, but this was my first time actually witnessing this phenomenon up close and personal.
People often consider me white, because my English is all fucked up (which is to say, not fucked up at all), and because I’m unabashed in my appreciation of the white female form, such as it is, but I was never white on the level that these kids are white. Mine was more of a socioeconomic issue, or a lack thereof. This was, like, an entire generation of kids that has as its reference points shit like N*E*R*D and Kanye West, rather that the Wu-Tang Clan and the Notorious B.I.G.
Of course I couldn’t help but feel bad for today’s youth, but I wondered if it was just that I’m getting old. It’s not, right?