Last year we already got a review from him and this year Abukar Ahmed comes through with another one of a Lupe Fiasco concert. This time he gives us a review of Lupe's show at Palace Theatre in Melbourne. Check it out below!
By Abukar Ahmed
Last summer, Lupe Fiasco found himself in the midst of perhaps one of the most arduous times of his life and certainly the most precarious point of his blossoming music career as he was locked in a bitter standoff with his label as the fate of his third studio album, Lasers, was drenched in uncertainty. A dispute that understandably wore on the wordsmith
“It was very, very frustrating. [It was] very taxing mentally, physically and emotionally. When you’re a musician and you put out music, you’re tied to it in every possible way. And then when the fruits of that is some corporate standoffishness, it breaks you down…it really puts you in a weird place.” He recently revealed to Triple J’s Tom and Alex.
In what can only be seen as a telling commentary on both his passion for his craft and his resilience, Lupe escaped his label troubles at home in the United States and travelled halfway across the world to Australia, seeking solace onstage around the sub-continent just in time for its summer music festival circuit.
“I came out here, I came to Australia. I had to reaffirm why I do music. It’s not for the studios; it’s not for the albums and the stores. It was more for onstage, connecting with the fans and we had to remind ourselves ‘this is why you’re putting yourself through that, this is why we taking these L’s’”. Lupe explained.
A year on, and (thanks in no small part to his devoted fans) with Lasers finally given a release date, Lupe is back in Australia.
Only this time in triumph.
In October last year, after his last official live stop on his “stepping lasers” tour in Georgetown, Lupe memorably declared that that was the last anyone would ever see him perform in that format, promising bigger and better things. And on Thursday night in Melbourne, Mr. Fiasco came good on that promise delivering a madly energetic, fast-flowing live-band show. It seemed he moved away from the old thematic progression through his set list, instead going for a set list sequence about as predictable as a wasp on speed.
After a mercifully concise and - in fairness- surprisingly rousing set by local supporting act, Diafrix, and the mandatory yet thankfully short-winded intermission in between, the lights dimmed as the five-piece band assumed their positions on stage punctually at precisely 10pm. DJ Simon Sayz and the ever popular drummer, Bam Bam played hype-men in anticipation for the main man himself. As the decibel levels grew from strength to strength, the Chi-town native was apparently satisfied with the energy as Lupe abruptly emerged onstage, to the opening chords of “Shining Down”. Lupe looked militant in a white button-up shirt buttoned to the top and fatigued camo army shorts, replete with a red Lasers-printed armband and designer shades as he bopped around the stage to the tracks piercing guitar chords and thumping drum kicks.
In evidence of the unpredictable progression of his set, Lupe immediately transitioned into Solar Midnight, bringing out the inner head-banger in a sizeable portion of the crowd.
Much to the evident delight of the adoring crowd, Lupe transitioned out of the Twilight featured track and hopped right into the sporadically-performed “The Instrumental”.
It was soon quite apparent Lupe would have to do no winning over tonight, as only three songs in, eruptions of approval reverberated right through the theatre as die hard fans and casual admirers alike got stuck into the guitar-heavy rendition.
Almost as if to test the energy levels, the outro to The Instrumental simmers out and the lights suddenly dim as DJ Simon Sayz spins an at-first-unrecognisable instrumental while the keyboardist contributes a few ethereal keys.
Undeterred, the ostensibly devout fans continue to be absorbed in bedlam chanting (in perfect unison), “LUPE, LUPE, LUPE…”
The placid and obscure beat meanwhile, continues to chime eerily through the theatre, until Matt Mahaffey’s voice penetrates through the sound system
“You must be……a radioooo station
and who are we, we must be
the number 1 songs, spinning all day long”
“AND OVER AGAIN, AND OVER AGAIN,
AND OVER AGAIN,
AND NEVER AGAIN, AND NEVER AGAIN
AND WE KNOW WHEN
WHEN WE CALL IN, AND NOTHING’S FREE
SOUNDS TO ME LIKE,
STATE RUN RADIO x8”
As the chorus hit its crescendo everything escalates into fever pitch delirium. Both guitarists engage in their best/berserk Angus Young impersonations. Crowd favourite, Bam Bam demonstrates John Bonham-like gusto on the drums; annihilating his sticks against his drum set (he literally obliterated them. I caught glimpse of the drumsticks he threw into the crowd after the show and they were depleted). All the while, Lupe raucously bounces up and down the stage furiously head-banging to the heavy drum kicks and relentless guitar riffs with reckless abandon.
With the show having kick-started in such high octane fashion, one would be forgiven for anticipating a pacified shift in pace ahead. I mean, fair enough. Right?
Nope. Mr. Fiasco had other plans. Not only was any such change not imminent, Lupe and co. soared things into overdrive, powering through a medley of up-tempo, energy charged songs which included Everybody Nose (Remix), Go Go Gadget Flow, I Gotcha, Hip Hop Saved My Life, Streets On Fire as well as Scream and Outta My Head (ft. Trey Songz). Just to name a few.
Toward the end of that enthralling, up-tempo stretch, and after reciting the Lasers Manifesto, Lupe took a moment to reveal to the crowd that Lasers would release in Australia March 4th, before engaging them in a brief moment of friendly banter.
“It comes out here, March 4th, while the rest of the world gets it March 5th.” Lupe revealed.
“That means, one of you is going to bootleg the album, and make a killing in the U.S”
He went on, “Now, I’m not going to call the F.B.I on you. I actually want to work out a deal. Which ever one of you is going to bootleg lasers … I just want 50 percent”
After all jokes were aside, Lupe assumed a more serious and sincere tone as he expressed his gratitude and payed homage to his die-hard fans. He thanked them for their support and explained that this is “the people’s album”.
“This album is dedicated to you. And I hope you guys enjoy it and I hope you guys find something on there that uplifts you and motivates you”
And a fitting segue it proved indeed, as shortly after, Skylar Grey’s voice ricocheted through the theatre.
While the sound of her voice was met with a thunderous roar of appreciation, in lieu of an intermission (thankfully), the mellow introduction to “Words I Never Said” marked one of the brief moments anyone could catch their breathe and compose themselves without missing any of the action.
The song itself, a politically-charged commentary on a myriad of hard-hitting, socio-political issues (and the second single off Lasers), is really controversial in its nature. While the amount of airplay it will receive appears quite uncertain and remains an interesting question, it’s certainly resonated with the fans. Judging by the efficiency and accuracy with which the crowd recited the words back to Lupe, it would quite be hard to fathom the fact that this song was released only 24 hours prior to the show.
The beauty is that, while this song starts off dark and sombre, it provides a great contrast to Lupe’s verses which are highlighted by his enthusiastic delivery and the rising orchestra of instruments.
The breather is over, all 30 seconds of it. Who knew politics could be so fun?
The show pushes on and after performing “Break the Chain”, Lupe gets stuck into “Beautiful Lasers”. On a personal note, this is my single MOST ANTICIPATED song on the entire forthcoming album. While I’ve replayed the songs CDQ snippet to death, seen it performed in person at two shows, and watched his innumerable amount of live performances of it on YouTube a countless number of times, I’m still hanging for the full length album version. The reason for this is, I feel it’s perhaps Lupe’s most honest song to date. Last year at virtually every stop on his stepping lasers tour, he preceded his performance of beautiful lasers with a speech wherein he revealed that he wrote this song during one of the hardest times of his life…
“I wrote this song a year and a half ago, when I was really really fucked up, to the point where I didn’t know if I even wanted to be here anymore.” He revealed in Melbourne last year onstage at Sound Safari (February 26th, 2010 @ Melbourne Zoo).
He explained: “When I say here, I don’t mean on this stage, I mean on this planet. So I channelled all that, and I came up with this song…It’s called Beautiful Lasers”.
So when he segued into Beautiful Lasers, I removed myself from the euphoria of the concert atmosphere and surveyed Lupe’s performance a bit closer. Unlike last year, this year’s performance of Beautiful Lasers had a bit more of a kick to it. At Sound Safari a year ago, the backing band played a soft, soothing backing sound while Lupe had his hands wrapped firmly around a microphone perched tightly atop a mic stand, with his eyes closed. The crowd literally stood and took in the lyrics, cheering intermittently in-between as they learned of his plights.
Although the backing band recaptured the fundamental tone of the song, this time around it was an all out rock rendition – staying true to the theme of the night. While at first I was disappointed and thought I preferred the slower rendition for its more lyrical dominance, in hindsight, I don’t feel as dissatisfied.
You garner a different insight, I feel, through both renditions. The slower version gives you a more intimate and honest look into beautiful lasers’ darkness whereas the energy-laced version performed this year gives you a more in your face insight into it, as the hard-hitting orchestra of instruments mirrors the chaos that Lupe called his life at the time.
One thing’s for sure; this year’s rendition was no less passionate than last years. In fact such was the passion that, at the end of Beautiful Lasers, when the band and DJ Simon Sayz seemed just about ready to transition into the mandatory Lupe “Superstar” performance, he abruptly stopped them and exclaimed, “Matter of fact, let’s do that one again!” And round we went again.
When “Superstar” eventually came on, it was the same grand extravaganza we’ve come to expect. A full-blown, 1000+ people strong sing-a-long/rap-a-long. There’s nothing quite like the ecstasy of a jam packed theatre full of people singing in perfect harmony.
Then it was over.
Just like they did at the very beginning of the set, again the fans were screaming Lupe’s name. While they did it once before earlier on out of appreciation, this series of chants were being fuelled by a desperate thirst for more.
Sure enough, shortly after the lights dimmed and the band re-emerged and assumed position on stage again. Bam Bam, perched a top a platform, hyped the crowd up almost daring them to get louder.
Before we knew it, Lupe was back for an encore and two stepping to the chorus of Show Goes On. When Lupe said he made this song particularly with the concert setting in mind, he wasn’t kidding. It’s one thing to hear this song at home, or on the radio. But believe me; you haven’t experienced this song until you have seen it performed live. Such a show tune.
After gliding through the oh-so-smooth, Paris, Tokyo, Lupe shed himself of his shirt. Somehow, he mustered up enough energy to get rowdier than he had been at any point he’d been all night to bring the show home with a full throttle performance of day-dream that was nothing short of show-stopping.
And then it was time to bid au revoir.
With heavy hearts, everyone helped him out
"As my granmama used to tell me...PEACE!
...and much love to ya"
WHAT A SHOW!
*Having been plagued by push-backs and label politics, Lasers finally drops on March 8th (March 4th in Australia) . Be sure to go out and get the album. If this show was any worthy indication, you’ll definitely be getting bang for your buck from all things FIASCO.