Lil Boosie made my week.
On what would normally be an average Fright night in Nashville, the recently released rapper was set to make an appearance at the Municipal Auditorium, making it his first performance since being set free from Angola State Prison little over a month ago. Nashville ended up first after earlier planned dates reportedly were nixed by the parole board.
There are only a few big names that I haven’t seen take the stage at least once, but Boosie was definitely at the top of my short list. Truthfully, I either forgot or got my dates confused and almost missed the show until someone reminded me late Thursday. Say that to say that I didn’t have time to even think about what I’d encounter or to hype it up in my mind. It was going to be what it would be, which was fine with me. Go with the flow.
What it turned out to be just what you’d expect: the first stage performance of a man who’s been locked away and unable to work at perfecting his craft for several years.
The evening started strong with Yo Gotti taking the stage in what’s almost a second home to him in Nashville. He’s been here countless times, both as a young artist with a small regional buzz and as a guy whose work has achieved its share of chart success. The crowd, which was at least several thousand deep, was equally familiar with him, reciting songs word for word and making it easy call the show a success for the Memphis native. And he set the energy level up for Bad Azz to follow.
The first omen that things might not go well was the sheer number of people on stage behind Boosie. Two or three security guards did a great job keeping a clear path for him to navigate back and forth across the stage, but there had to be at least 60 to 80 people who served no real purpose by standing there. Minus a few, none ever budged in response to the songs being played except to maybe nod their heads and throw an arm in the air here or there.
Personal pet peeve? Perhaps. But you never see artists from other genres pack the stage with 50 of their friends do you?
Rust. Lots of it.
If there’s one thing Boosie’s music thrives off of it’s emotion and energy. He draws you into his world of pain, struggle and pleasures with songs throughout his extensive catalog. Except here, there were a few flaws that just couldn’t be overlooked – song selection and overall enthusiasm.
Over half of the choices were either tracks featuring others or joints where Boosie played the feature. So what we ended up getting was a one-verse-and-a-chorus run of music. The DJ cued up a song, Boosie talked to transition into it, performed his part before finishing it off to go into dead air and a pause again. Moments later, repeat the process by going into the next joint. The silence was awkward. He tried to talk his way through but he still seemed a little lost standing on stage in front of all these people. And the people didn’t know what to do either, so every prolonged song change meant a lull in the action.
And, he rapped over his vocals.
Everybody understands the dynamics of performing. We know a show disc is generally played behind an artist. The problem here was his vocals were playing above him in spots, either because he was a little winded or because the soundman wasn’t on his job. Either way, it took away from the experience.
The smallest rookie to the biggest vet has to know that if fans want to listen to a CD they can chill at home and do that or play the music in their car. When I come to a show, I want a performance, not a karaoke moment.
“But, I thought you were a huge Boosie supporter?”
I am and one show doesn’t change that. Don’t confuse retelling what I saw and heard with abandoning ship or leaving my guy’s side.
I know his show will get better weeks from now after he’s readjusted not just to performing but also being free, period. It’s the same thing I told a friend regarding Andre 3000’s back-to-the-crowd appearance at Coachella. Dre and Bad Azz both need more time on stage to get back in their respective grooves. Once they do, their shows will improve based off the fact that they have strong, dedicated followers and an even stronger arsenal of hits they can bring with them.
And for all the shortcomings listed, bring the hits is what Boosie managed to do. “Loose As A Goose,” “Show Da World,” Webbie’s “Independent”? Nailed’em. Hearing “Betrayed” live? Crossed off the bucket list now. Sharing a moment with Boosie and a bunch of other people who knew “Devils” front to back just like I did could be classified as a rap-religious experience for me.
Friday’s show may have not been his best set, but I’m still glad I was there for what will be remembered as his first show back from the belly of the beast. At one point during his incarceration, the thought of seeing Boosie live seemed like a slim chance. Now, with time, I expect we’ll be experiencing only bigger and better moments from Bad Azz.
Update: Adding in an extra clip of Bad Azz’s studio interview with Zach Boog of Nashville’s 101.1 The Beat.