Blackalicious Fortune Sound Club, Vancouver, BC, February 3

Blackalicious Fortune Sound Club, Vancouver, BC, February 3
Photo: Steve Louie
There was a fervently celebratory atmosphere brewing this evening as Blackalicious took the stage. The Sacramento duo packed the Fortune Sound Club on a Sunday night, an impressive feat considering they haven't released a new album in eight years. With Chief Xcel dropping beats in the back and Vursatyl (of long-time Blackalicious touring partners Lifesavas) going beyond the role of the hypeman, Gift of Gab looked casually dapper in an old fashioned cap and a dark zip-up hoodie over a striped button-up shirt. He constantly shot sideways smiles across the stage and into the haze of fog machine vapour and pot smoke, showing how deeply joyful he was to be in his natural setting.

Their set started off a little rough as a momentarily confused Xcel dropped a train wreck mix while Gab's vocals were faded in the mix, and continued to ride the edge of screeching feedback at points throughout the evening. They found their groove by the time they hit the title track of their 2003 album Blazing Arrow, which transitioned to "World of Vibrations," the opening track from 2005's The Craft, through a turn from Vursatyl. They would go on to showcase many of the greatest moments in the brief but spectacular Blackalicious catalogue.

Gab looked like he was in better shape than he was in his prime (circa 2003) as he worked the crowd with respectful command. He led the crowd in a scat-like sing-along before launching into the cautionary tale of "Deception" from their 1999 debut Nia, which had the roof pop off for the hook. He talked about walking around the crowd in disguise to feel the crowd's energy, prompting a crowd noise battle leading into "First In Flight," and encouraged everyone to let the workweek tension and stress go before "Make You Feel That Way." Knowing exactly where he was, Gab worked hockey and the maple leaf into his encore freestyle battle with Vursatyl, who held his own but was ultimately outmatched by Gab's upper echelon skills. Whether they still have blogosphere hype power behind them or not, it is certain that Blackalicious haven't lost a step.