Show Review: Ludacris, T.I., Unladylike, Murphy Lee, Shorty Da Kid, et al at Chaifetz Arena, Thursday, February 19

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(Review by Kristy Wendt)

A small decked-out crowd stood in the frigid air outside the Chaifetz Arena for the T.I. and Ludacris concert last night, but the line moved fast, and shortly after we found our seats, Eastside emcees Tee and Gunna of Unladylike were frenetically pacing the stage, singing "Bartender" to a stripped-down bass-heavy drumbeat. Tee bustles forcefully on stage, and her tiny, tattooed midriff is a mercurial addition to an otherwise gritty crunk performance.

While the audience seemed to enjoy Unladylike and the following act, Shorty Da Kid, Murphy Lee's appearance sent collective peals of ecstasy through the audience, and was also marked by plumes of pot smoke in all directions around our seats, most notably from a man wearing a large, bright red leather jacket and backward Cardinals hat waving around a huge cell phone camera two rows down. 

Even funnier was an imperturbable mother seated near the front with her two young daughters, dressed in a red cardigan and looking on with the pleasantly resigned expression of a churchgoer -- a countenance she maintained through Shorty Da Kid's "Ratchet Ass Ho" and Luda's "Fuck You, Luda," while both girls at her side looked on stoically in fluorescent glow-in-the-dark sunglasses. Red Leather Jacket, on the other hand, danced for most of Murphy Lee's set, and stayed up to "Fly High" for Jim Jones' appearance afterward -- a set that was interrupted by a staged fight; the clue to said staging was when "policemen" threw off their uniforms and started to dance in synchrony with Jim.

 While I saw a few crowd members with ensembles vaguely reminiscent of the viral "ghetto prom" photos floating around the internet a few years ago (the portrait booth set up in the lobby of Chaifetz featured two airbrushed Cadillacs nestled side-by-side in the background beneath graphic font that said, simply, "Swagger like us"), most looked great: graphic blazers and tight T-shirts heavily accessorized with loud, oversize bags (the girl standing in the aisle beside us had a hot pink purse shaped like an electric guitar) and funky jewelry. 

 Finally (finally) Ludacris began with Theater of the Mind's "Fuck You, Luda" wearing black cargo pants, a black coat, and the diamond bling of a Southern king. His set list included his own "Southern Hospitality," "You's a Hoe" and "Splash Waterfalls," and he also covered the Youngbloodz "Damn!," Lil Wayne's "Duffel Bag Boy" and DJ Khaled's "I'm so Hood," and then from Gucci Mane's Back to the Track House,  a personal favorite, "Very Freaky Girl" -- at which point an actual fight broke out to our immediate left.

Within minutes, nearly twenty people crowded the aisles next to our seats, pushing against one another; it was hard to tell what they were shouting at from our position 100 yards from Chaifetz's speakers, but it took the guards and two policemen nearly ten minutes to push them up the stairs and out the door, which was followed by a seeming exodus of people who were on the stage side of the fight traffic jam in the aisle. Luda didn't stop the show; he eyed the aisle action warily for a moment, and then moved to the other side of the stage and continued his set. I never felt particularly unsafe, but the time it took for security to respond to what seemed to be an obviously escalating problem was annoying. 

Happily, by the time Luda finished "One More Drink" and "What's Your Fantasy?" the fight was over, and Chicago-based emcee Shawnna (she's featured in Chicken-N-Beer's "Stand Up") joined Ludacris onstage wearing tight black leather pants and a purple top. Together they promoted their co-produced album, Battle of the Sexes, which should be released later this year. I'll be buying it; Shawnna's rapid-fire staccato delivery and suggestive booty-shaking were the concert's highlights. Luda concluded his set with "Wish You Would" and audience-approved "Move Bitch."

 After a short break, T.I.'s entourage took the stage, and T.I., who is bound for jail next month for federal weapons charges, took a moment to rail against anyone who would portray him as a snitch; "I'd be a snitch maybe if I was you," he vaguely screamed at would-be critics; this comment was followed with "Tell 'Em I Said That."  Many in the audience danced for T.I., and while I came to show Luda love, I'd be curious to know what commenters liked/didn't like about T.I.'s set.

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