In Brief: De La Soul @ House Of Blues 8/26/09

Wednesday night De La Soul turned back the clock with their 20 Years High And Rising Tour stop at House Of Blues.  I entered with some reservations having been disappointed by a 2007 appearance at Pitchfork Music Festival and having previously seen De La in 1996 in support of Stakes Is High.  My fears were unfounded as the Plugs were tight and well rehearsed for this performance that at times featured a 10-piece backing band.  In a set that erased the years, it was hard to believe these MCs and DJ are now in their forties.  Early on De La riffed and rhymed over The Clash’s “Radio Clash” much to the delight of this fan.  Their genre spanning love affair with disparate styles is something that has always set De La Soul apart from other hip hop outfits.

Crowd participation was of course encouraged (swing your hands in the air), but not to an extreme level that would throw the show off course.  The 3 Feet High and Rising cuts sounded downright awesome.  “Potholes,” “Eye Know,” “Buddy” and the obligatory “Me, Myself & I” all made their way into the set.  Another early gem on this night was “Saturdays,” with the guys brimming with an energy and zest that was missing back in 2007s Pitchfork set.

Although there were no special guest spots from the likes of Common, De La did reprise the Stakes Is High track “The Bizness” and brought the house down with the exceptional “Ooh,” a truly underappreciated song that deserved to be a bigger hit.  Oddly enough, I found the songs without the 10-piece band (back when it was just 2 MCs and 1 DJ) to be the strongest.  Admittedly it was nice to have a band there and they certainly were made use of during the encore.  In a show of respect, De La did a cover of Run DMC’s “Rock Box,” complete with live guitar licks which were a little jarring and perhaps ill-advised.  Faring better was the performance of their verses from the Gorillaz track “Feel Good Inc.”  All in all you couldn’t ask for much more as De La Soul succeeded in delivering a nostalgia night without looking like old cats beyond their years.

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