De La Soul / Notes to Self / KO Kapches Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON August 23
Published Aug 25, 2009With their last official full-length coming way back in 2004 and with no new material to hustle, it's safe to say that, if you've seen one De La Soul show in the past few years, you know what to expect, right down to the choreographed onstage clowning. Of course, it's exactly that clowning, backed up by a career full of enviable classics, that makes a date with the three plug-tunin' MCs such a sure bet. But on a night billed as a celebration of 20 years in the game, there's a twinge of disappointment in the fact that long-time fans weren't treated to a little bit more than just another De La set.
Things got off to an interesting start with a rough-edged performance from local rapper-turned-singer-songwriter KO Kapches, who offered up an Everlast-styled blend of acoustic folk melodies built up by sturdy hip-hop backing tracks. Despite appearing in serious need of a stool to plant him firmly in one place on stage during his solitary showing, his uplifting material made a connection with the considerate Phoenix crowd, who applauded accordingly. Up next was the well-oiled Notes to Self machine, who opened with a tribute to the magical year the night's main attraction broke onto the scene before breezing through a bristling set of tight posse cuts, earning much love from the hometown crowd throughout.
After an unnecessary 45-minute pause and a share of mounting crowd impatience, Maseo finally stepped up to the decks to kick off yet another De La-inspired night of sweat-soaked fun. The hit parade that ensued — with cuts like "Ego Trippin," "Grind Date," "Stakes Is High" and the face-twisting "Rock Co.Kane Flow" — while thoroughly satisfying, was largely predictable, though the unfortunate episode of Dave passing the mic to a rambunctious audience member who couldn't even manage the hook to "Me Myself and I" shows why the group will undoubtedly never reach into their deeper back catalogue for live sets. On this night, however, there was clearly no need, as the adoring audience lapped up every moment and refused to let the men leave the stage, to which a gracious Maseo responded expertly, breaking out the Serato plates for an impromptu memory lane trip through A Tribe Called Quest musical history.
When it comes down to it, while you can't really fault a group for sticking with a two-decade-old formula for live success, this 20th anniversary date felt like a missed opportunity to truly do justice to De La Soul's artistic past.