Lupe Fiasco photo by Morgan Keuler
Lupe Fiasco, Optimus @ the Showbox
Egyptian Lover @ Broken Disco
Lupe Fiasco’s Friday night show at the Showbox had the cool, confident feel of a victory lap. After his crowd-stunning performance opening for Wu Tang Clan at last year’s Bumbershoot (no small feat, keeping that horde of Wu fans at bay for an hour), Lupe didn’t have anything to prove to Seattle, and he knew it. The set was still good, but it didn’t have the sense of unexpected triumph of his Bumbershoot performance. At that show, Lupe looked like a tiny superhero on that massive arena stage, darting back and forth in all white and shades, holding the crowd rapt with little more than a DJ and a hypeman behind him on most songs. This time, he was backed by a full live band, as well as crooner Matthew Santos, and it was a different kind of show, less singularly bad-ass, more professional, well-practiced spectacle.
He took the stage without a word as his band launched into “Real,” and the crowd went totally nuts. Lupe addressed the crowd with casual familiarity, as if he was reminiscing with an old friend. He introduced his verse from “Touch the Sky,” saying, “We know each other, correct? Y’all remember the first time we met? I think it sounded something like this…” He talked about taking the crowd back to his place in Chicago, stopping by the Food & Liquor store (“The Instrumental”), taking us to his fave skateboarding spot (“Kick,Push”), dropping us off and taking a nap (“Daydream”). The set, like his banter, had a roughly chronological narrative arc. For the first hour, Lupe and band rolled through much of Food & Liquor (as well as the aforementioned Kanye cut and Gorillaz-sampling mixtape/live fave “Happy Industries”).
He stopped “The Instrumental” after a brief false start to chide the crowd: “In Dublin, Ireland, you know what they do when this song comes on?” Apparently, as Lupe demonstrated on stage, they pogo in Ireland. Not to be outdone by Dublin, when the band picked back up, the crowd erupted into waves of jumping. He shouted out Capitol Hill apparel/skate shop Goods. “I Gotcha” was an early highlight, the band sounding big and funky, tight and loose in all the right places. The combo of “Hurt Me Soul” and “Kick, Push” brought the first set to a climax. For the second hour, they hit some highlights of new album The Cool, starting with some fierce a capella of “The Coolest.” Highlights included “Dumb it Down,” “Paris, Tokyo,” Gold Watch,” and, of course, “Superstar.” Lupe introduced the last saying, “When I first wrote this, I couldn’t wait to play it for a packed crowd, sold-out from front to back.” A disco ball lit up for the superstar-as-everyman anthem.
The set was long, but not overly indulgent. What made the show drag at all was opening act Optimus, a tired-ass, reggae-tinted rap-rock band in the style of 311, Rage Against the Machine, and, to a lesser extent, Sublime. Optimus thanked the crowd for letting him rock, noted that warming up for Lupe was a tough gig, complained that he didn’t get respect because he’s white, and repeatedly asked the Showbox if they liked reggae and Bob Marley. The crowd was not buying it, and the only time they made any noise was when he offered up some free t-shirts or when he mentioned Lupe Fiasco. Matthew Santos could’ve done a set of his acoustic coffee-house stuff and it would’ve been a bolder, more interesting pairing.
Caught a cab with 17” rims (the owner was clearly proud) up to Egyptian Lover at Chop Suey, and were instantly transported to another place and time. EL and co-MC Jamie Jupiter were up on stage, the place was drenched in sweat, there was an obelisk out front, and pyramids floating around the room. EL and Jupiter kicked synchronized dance moves, rapped sweet-talk to the ladies, and just generally tore it up even more than I expected from such veterans.
More Lupe photos after the jump.
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