Live: The Coup Lets The Music Speak For Itself At Brooklyn Bowl


The Coup
Brooklyn Bowl
Sunday, September 25

Better than: Waitin’ on class warfare.

“Somebody’s holding up a sign I wanna endorse…’Occupy Wall Street’!” When the Coup’s Boots Riley uttered that statement a third of the way into his set last night, the audience coughed up a cheer that felt a little different from the applause that had followed other songs—it was almost like the assembled had been holding their breath, waiting to exhale. It was a reminder that those who’ve grooved to the provocations that litter the activist Oakland MC’s albums expect precisely this kind of stage patter from him; he hadn’t given up much of it until then, preferring instead to let the music do most of the talking.

Riley even confirmed this a bit later, as he steered the raucous four-piece rock outfit backing him up into the song “Sho Yo Ass.” “We didn’t come here for speeches tonight,” he disclosed. What’s a toss-up is whether he truly needs them. Two of Riley’s signature screeds, “Everythang” (“every cancer is a homicide/ every boss better run and hide”) and the now-notorious “5 Million Ways To Kill a C.E.O.” had already gone by well received, and perhaps the most exhilarating surprise was how markedly different they were from their recorded counterparts. Perhaps fittingly, the Coup’s set followed a vibrantly pneumatic one by the rock duo Japanther, whose cover of “Born To Run” felt like it’d been written by the Ramones right down to the “1, 2, 3, FO!” count-off. (Riley’s Afro could be seen bobbing in the audience through much of their performance.) To date, the Coup’s discs have plied a futuristic combination of P- and G-Funk, but Riley’s touring outfit jams inclusionary like he got the memo some time ago that his youthful audience is considerably whiter than he is. (Of course, there’s another lyric in “Everythang” that might shed some light on his philosophy: “Every human is some kin to black.”)

So the meat was clearly in the music rather than the manifestos. So much so that Silk E, the band’s backing vocalist, often rose into the role of partner instead of sidekick. Not only did she get to show off her rock-mama chops with one of her originals (“Did You Give Her What I Get?”), she inspired Riley to drop to his knees as if in prayer when she did Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love.” One sign that a band has lots of crowd faves and a limited time to play ’em is the need for medleys, which Riley’s crew handled deftly while maximizing the impact of full-blown prescriptions for revolution like “Laugh/Love/Fuck” and “Fat Cats and Bigger Fish.” Though it’s been five years since the Coup’s last album, the one new piece that the band debuted went by so fast it barely made an impression. Riley clearly intended it as little more than a teaser. “Believe me, people,” he said, almost apologetically, “we’re finishing the next record now. Be out in 2012.”

Critical bias: My + 1 and I paid the $8 cover, even though quite a few folks got in free by simply RSVP-ing early.

Overheard: “A six-string bass? I hope that’s not one string too many.”

Random notebook dump: It’s pretty hilarious that live music is loud enough to cancel out the sounds of bowling.

Set list:
We Are The Ones
5 Million Ways To Kill A C.E.O./Gunsmoke
Sho Yo Ass
Lupe Beat
Ride The Fence/The Shipment (Soft & Wet)
My Favorite Mutiny
Get That Monkey Off Your Back
Did You Give Her What I Get?
Ass-Breath Killers/Me and Jesus The Pimp In A ’69 Granada Last Night
Satellite Of Love
Fats Cats And Bigger Fish