Published Jan 01, 2006With French cabaret music announcing his arrival, a newsboy cap-wearing Buck 65 completed his transformation from abstract Maritime MC into a hip-hop Tom Waits (circa his lounge-singer period). Not that I'm complaining. Last year I saw the rapper also known as Rich Tefry performing a half-ass set in front of a predominantly rock crowd busily doing their best to ignore him. This time around, the headliner, who recently moved his headquarters to Paris, held the audience rapt with his increasingly stylised storytelling. There seemed to be little difference, aside from pre-recorded beats, between his gruff-voiced tour tales of stolen mini-discs and stripper Olympians or his father's unorthodox snow removal technique (flame thrower) and his beatnik-influenced spoken-word flow on music-backed cuts like the indie-rap shout-out "Attack of the Nerds." Whether swinging a mechanics lamp around his head like the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, sprinkling stardust from his pockets or showing off his subtly virtuoso scratch techniques, Buck's entire performance coalesced into a complete performance package. Cinematic soundscapes filled with cellos, dusted beats and French pop samples backed bizzaro songs like "Centaur," on which he flips hip-hop's dick-centric rhymes with lines like, "Sure, it's larger than yours/I'm a centaur for Chrissakes!," as well as newer untitled tracks from his latest full-length Square. All night long Buck's charisma was in full effect, far overshadowing a lacklustre opening set from BluRum13 and making it clear why Warner not only signed the 30-year-old but agreed to re-release his back catalogue as well. As one of the rare rappers that continues to improve with age, Buck finally appears ready for his big breakthrough. And if, like his once-promising baseball career, it all falls apart, at least it's not from any lack of talent.