Ice-T Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON July 26

Ice-T Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON July 26

Syndicate fool: words to ponder as old school rapper Ice-T phoned in a modest performance to minimal attendees. Early on, the night was a ride between boredom and frustration. Act after painful act delivered predictable, half-hearted, half-brained songs, grating on nerves. Eventually though, after being introduced about 50 times, DJ Evil E scratching everything but interest and a Rhyme Syndicate member taking his sweet time performing his songs, Ice-T strolled out onstage. Over an hour past his advertised set time, mind you. Watching him dole out tunes from virtually every album — 2006’s Gangsta Rap back to 1987’s Rhyme Pays were all represented fairly — it was difficult to determine whether the longhorn hip-hopper should be respected for stepping up to the plate in the face of waning interest, scolded for spending half the night griping about the lack of attendees (and not just sucking it up and delivering) or politely encouraged to hang up the microphone and stick to appearing on police procedurals. One has to hand it to him though: despite grumbling about how Montreal "had a line up around the block” and how the state of hip-hop is in trouble — which clearly upset the crowd — Ice-T redeemed himself by dubbing the handful of stationary gawkers his "special forces” and busting out a few quips before kicking into a stretch of OG: Original Gangster-era material. For a guy who’s been rapping longer than most of the genre’s current stars have been sucking air, he’s still got it, even when on autopilot. Flowing and eloquent, he delivered with confidence and grace even if he was obviously uninterested. And to those of us tortured by the squawking openers, even this mediocrity seemed to shine like the gold on everyone’s chest.