Friday, July 25, 2014

Bombastic Outkast reunion graces Louisville's Forecastle festival

After hitting virtually every festival in existence this year, Oukast's omission from this year's Bonnaroo lineup was a big buzkill. But I would not be denied my chance to see them. Having first heard Ms. Jackson in 8th grade, and having grown up with their Speakerboxx/Love Below era hits, it was fantastic seeing them onstage together once again.

They had a gigantic mesh cube on stage with screens you could see through, so you could see them when they were inside of it and they could also project images onto the screens. They opened the show by projecting the American flag from the Stankonia cover onto the cube screens.

They kicked off with a couple of tunes from that album, getting the crowd properly gelled up with "B.O.B" and "Gasoline Dreams," a pair of ferocious cuts that show off their hip hop prowess while simultaneously working the crowd into a frenzy. From there they began working through a catalog of their early hits, knocking out material from ATLiens and Aquemeni era. Although arguably less known than their later hits, these earlier tunes boast hooks every bit as potent, and its a testament that stacking songs this strong this early into their set helped them avoid the early set lull that many live acts struggle with.

The duo interacted well with one another and seemed like good showmen. Andre had on his white wig and a black jumpsuit that read Obviously Oblivious, along with a price tag hanging off of his suit with a dollar sign on it.

They moved swiftly through a set of greatest hits. Little time was spent delving into their back catalog, but it's a testament to them that they can fill a full set with pretty much nothing but killer hit cuts.

Midway through they did a couple of solo sets to allow them to deliver material from Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, a double album which consisted of individual solo discs from both members of the duo. Andre's was much heavier on visual elements. At times his screens looked the command module for the Starship Enterprise. At the end, there was a visual of a woman's legs, with the mesh cube positioned strategically to block out the view directly between her legs, and her panties could be seen gliding off and fluttering down her leg. "Who invented panties anyway?" Andre intoned. "I think they were meant to be taken off."

The best moment was when he invited a gaggle of female fans from the crowd onto stage during "Hey Ya!" One of them gave him a hug and told him this was the best moment of her life. "I disagree," Andre declared. "This is the beginning of the best moment of your life!"

Big Boi's solo spot was more grounded, but no less impressive. He invited Sleepy Brown out onto stage for "The Way You Move," a tune that packs some serious groove, but also proved he could bust some serious amps on the speaker shredder "Ghetto Musik."

They had neat ways of introducing songs. "Let me ask you guys a question. Do you guys know Jesse Jackson? Wanda Jackson?" Then they paused before slyly asking, "What about Ms. Jackson?" before busting into their indomitable breakout single. If they hadn't blown up by the time they launched that single way back in 2001, they certainly did after it hit.

But the night wasn't complete without a run through the group's old school hits. "Crumblin 'Erb" and "Player's Ball" showed off a vastly different and much more grounded sound than later Outkast, drawing heavily from a dirty Southern gangsta rap style, while still featuring heavy helpings of soul.

Though the tour may have started off rocky with that opening Coachella date, Big Boi and Andre have now hit their stride, and are playing magnificently off one another. Only they know what's in store at the conclusion of this tour, but it would be a shame for the group to dissipate right as they're getting their groove back.

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