Pete Rock & CL Smooth Sound Academy, Toronto ON August 16
Published Aug 18, 2012In a week that saw legions of Presley faithfuls celebrating the 35th anniversary of the King's passing, classic rap record Mecca and the Soul Brother -- the seminal debut album by hip-hop royalty Pete Rock & CL Smooth -- reached its own milestone of 20 years since its original release. Of course, it would be a stretch to suggest these artists occupy a similar perch in musical history. However, the fact a two-decade-old album from a duo that only released two could still fill Toronto's Sound Academy is a testament to the impact that timeless piece of music has had on multiple generations of beats and rhymes connoisseurs.
Though long separated as a result of various spats and a prolonged hiatus from the rap game for the pair's lyrical half, Pete Rock & CL Smooth took their spot at centre stage and went straight to working the crowd like old times, dedicating the set to the late Heavy D at the start before moving through cut after memorable cut from an advertised repertoire that left little room for creativity or surprises. While it's easy to understand how the gimmick of performing one album in its entirety might be a great selling point in some cases, why anyone would limit a group who only had two albums and a handful of scattered singles in total to songs from a single disc hardly seems rational.
For their part, the veteran duo largely held their own through a staggered set of palpable starts and stops, each doing his best keep energy levels up with engaging post-track banter as Pete Rock searched for or set up the next song while CL checked his cue cards to ensure there were no glaring missteps. With so few twists available to them due to the strict setlist, one of the show's few divergences came when Rock ran the Ernie Hines "Our Generation" original that formed the basis for eternal classic "Straighten It Out." The excitement CL Smooth showed in being on stage in front of the packed house speckled with faces likely 20 years his junior also made for a couple of fairly endearing moments.
But while most on hand were able to maintain a fair degree of animation and involvement throughout the night, it was hard to get past the feeling that the entire set was simply a necessary precursor to the inevitable closer and the one track everybody really wanted to hear, "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)." It's a shame, as fans were cheated out of all of the many better cuts from the group's follow-up disc The Main Ingredient, and while a short DJ set of Pete Rock-related gems laced by the producer himself likely quelled any staunch disappointment, it would have been nice to see his rhyme-mate extend what was truly such a rare experience just a little while longer.