Common / Talib Kweli Kool Haus, Toronto ON - April 4, 2003

For conscious hip-hop heads, Common's Electric Circus tour was a wet dream — when it finally happened, that is. After an interminable wait due to the initial hold-up and eventual no-show by all three local openers (Roam, Reign and Saukrates), Brooklyn's Talib Kweli at last appeared at midnight, storming the stage, spitting poetic wisdom backed by the soulful Tracey Moore and Mercedes Martinez (of the Jazzyfatnastees). Although he demonstrated great energy, a muddy mix and inadequate breath control conspired to turn his normally crisp, rapid-fire rhymes into a hoarse rasp. Still, the crowd didn't seem to mind, as he ripped through solo hits and Black Star gems with equal finesse before closing with the rousing single "Get By." After another exceedingly long delay, fans were at last welcomed to the "electric circus" by Common and his five-piece band. Dressed in earth tones, with a matching hat and scarf, the Chicago artist exhibited an exuberance that belied his introspective lyrics and laid-back delivery. During "Electric Wire Hustler Flower," he pumped his mic stand in the air and repeatedly smashed it into the floor. Halfway through his set, he shed his Adidas jacket to reveal a T-shirt emblazoned with the word "Rockers." Rather than using it as a hip ironic statement, he wore it proudly, as if it were Superman's emblem. Later, he paid homage to his peers with a flawless medley of hip-hop classics, including Nas's "The World Is Yours," Notorious B.I.G.'s "Big Poppa" and Wu-Tang's "C.R.E.A.M.," only to follow up with his own classics "I Used to Love H.E.R." and "Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)." During the latter, he surprised everyone with a show-stopping windmill that proved once and for all that "Common Sense is the essence of the b-boy."