Live: Lil Wayne Is The Master Of Ceremonies In New Jersey
Better than: Sorry For The Wait.
Before Lil Wayne took the stage last night at the PNC Bank Arts Center, the PA was playing cuts from Sorry For The Wait, the stopgap mixtape released as an apologia for the delays plaguing Tha Carter IV. People cheered for the woozy beat backing "Sure Thing" and his flip of Kreayshawn's "Gucci Gucci" as darkness fell over New Jersey and the screens flanking the stage asked us if our concert experience was being ruined by anyone.
The room then suddenly darkened further, only lit by the red glow of the Young Money logo and a couple hundred smartphones' screens. Clattery electro-metal poured out of the speakers. Pyro sputtered. "I work hard every day; I try not to sleep," Weezy's disembodied voice said over the loudspeakers. Then a hatch in the stage opened, and there he was, the man of the hour, sitting on what looked like an office chair, wearing pants printed with Keith Haring doodles and a hat to match. He was only in that chair for a second, though, leaping out of it and racing down the runway while launching into "No Love." He ran around the stage, smiling and mugging for the assembled cameras and fans in front of him.
He raced. He rapped. He gestured. He made faces. It was only after three songs that he paused. "Jersey, how the fuck y'all?" he asked, a big grin on his face. After welcoming the crowd to the 2011 I Am Still Music Tour and introducing himself, he informed us of a few important things: one, that he would be telling us that he loved and appreciated us a lot during the evening; two, that he was a 28-year-old self-made millionaire, and he can have almost anything that he wants; and three, that he a) believes in God, and b) "ain't shit without you, you dig?" (He repeated this twice, in case people didn't get it.)
Clearly thrilled to be back in front of a crowd, his crowd, after being stuck across the river for so long, he tore through more than 30 tracks, thanking everyone in attendance profusely at any chance he could get. There was "A Milli," augmented by an outro that had a sort of symphonic-metal bent to it, complete with guitar soloing; there was "Get Money" with Mack Maine, one of many guests to show up over the course of the night. There were certain points where you could see him going into a trancelike state, falling into the cadences of his lyrics; it was like we'd gotten a pass to watch him psych himself up in his dressing room, and it was pretty mesmerizing.
In the middle of the set, Young Money house diva Shanell came out first to take the place of Kelly Rowland on "Motivation," then to perform a saucy ode to female satisfaction. Actually, last night featured a ton of lady-directed content, which shouldn't have been too surprising since the audience was pretty evenly split demographic-wise. Weezy noted that he liked his women grown and sexy, and not just the former (then teased those people who he thought might be lying about their age in order to curry favor with him); he said that his sweet ballad "How To Love," during which he physically transformed into a big-eyed crooner and I wondered if this song would find some sort of long life on AC radio eventually, was dedicated to all the women out there who had never been made to feel beautiful by someone else. Even while getting lap dances from his own stable of Hot Cops during "Mrs. Officer" and asking the assembled to "have a heart" and respect his emotions before tearing into the spread-the-seed ode "Every Girl," he exuded a charm that had the women in the audience fluttering. (Perhaps the fact that by that point he'd changed into board shorts that had turquoise panels covered in coral lip prints, like a postcard from Florida in 1986 turned into clothing, helped the vibe.)
"I have a new album called Tha Carter IV," he told the crowd at one point. "It'll be out August 29." This was, as it turned out, a fact that was going to be on the test; a few times during the course of the evening he asked the crowd what his album release date was. Many of them remembered. Maybe this is the way of the futurerote repetition as a reminder that yes, albums are available for purchase in stores? Later in the show he rapped, sans backing track, a Carter IV track called "Nightmares Of The Bottom"; it was full of tongue-twisty lines about success and motivation, and its show-ending one-two punch with the delirium-inducing "Six Foot Seven Foot" made me much more excited for Wayne's new album than I was after spinning through Sorry For The Wait. Then again, Wayne's charisma quotient last night was high enough for me to write down "'Prom Queen' actually sounds kind of good," which shows that his personality goes a long way.
Critical bias: After being underwhelmed by S4TW and feeling like Wayne put on a slightly lackluster performance at the Bamboozle I was worried that last night would have been a bit inert. Whew, right?
Overheard: "I don't even know you, but I want to fight you. My name's Mike." Ah, flirtation in 2011.
Random notebook dump: Thanks to some grave travel miscalculations on my part I missed three of the four openers (including Lloyd, sob!). I did catch the bulk of Rick Ross' high-energy set, which was punctuated by snippets of his biggest songs, air horns, shoutouts to Maybach Music, and the crowd going absolutely fucking berserk. Does anyone else think that his preferred pronunciation of "Rozay" sounds like he's shouting out fine pink wine? (The room was a bit of a sweatbox at that point, so I might be projecting because I probably could have used a glass.)
Random notebook dump II: Shout out to Adam at the merch table for helping out a woman whose pen decided to run out of ink during Ross' set. (Makeup-wearing journos, take note: Writing notes in eyeliner is an OK emergency solution, but it makes things really messy if you use both sides of the page!)
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