Common heats up the House of Blues

A review of Common at the House of Blues on March 9, 2009

, Staff Writer

It seems every artist who plays the brand new House of Blues really wants to bring down the house, break in the new venue as it were, so it’s no surprise then that when Common rolled into town on Monday night he brought his A game. His time spent MCing showed throughout his performance, and Mr. Lynn’s prowess up on the stage, keeping the crowd fired up all evening, really helped bring another fantastic performance to the new venue.

DJ Dummy got up on stage to get the crowd ready for Common, kicking off the beat to "Announcement" before the MC leaped out from backstage, clad in a leather jacket and sunglasses. The bass was loud and filled the room with chest-shaking tones as everyone’s hand shot up in the air and started waving around to the beat. From there he immediately segued into "Sex 4 Suga", which had everyone going "Sex for sugar, sugar for sex" at the admittedly simple refrain. After the song, he took a moment for the requisite "it’s great to be here in Boston" speech and to break up a fight that had started in the front row.

Common pulled a girl on stage from the audience and sang "Punch Drunk Love" (without Kanye, of course) to her. The song seamlessly gave way to a good three minutes of freestyle. Common would do two different freestyles throughout the course of the evening, and it was these moments that were probably the most entertaining of the whole show: his flow is impeccable, setting up simple yet clever rhymes and moving from one thought to another without ever being too abrupt. Towards the end of the evening, for instance, he asked an audience member to give him a word to rap about, which ended up being "Celtics" (side note – we hear Celtics star Rajon Rando was in the house). By the end of the song, he had rapped about every Boston sports team with surprising accuracy, and even threw a few mentions of "the new House of Blues" into it.

Another great, seemingly spontaneous moment was after "Punch Drunk Love" when Common went "hip hop, hip hop" a few times before dropping a verse from a classic rap song. "Rapper’s Delight" and "Just A Friend" stand out, though most of the songs were pretty recognizable. It was cool to see the audience get that mass recognition of what Common was rapping and then immediately joining in.

After the medley, DJ Dummy took a few minutes for some solo scratching, with some particularly impressive beatmatching. He took a sample of a guy counting to ten and worked it into a beat counting up, and then counting back down. If one couldn’t actually see him jumping from one turntable to the next it would be not so easy to figure out that he was scratching the whole thing. Common then took the stage again and performed "The Light", at some point working in some lyrics to Kanye West’s "Home", which he had originally been featured on. After closing out the set with that song, Common came back to perform an encore of "The Food" and "Gladiator", the latter of which had a ridiculously loud old-school driving beat. It was an aggressive and a perfect way to end an evening filled with excellent pacing on the part of the performers.

Common did a great job of embracing hip hop culture and avoided the usual arrogance and unoriginal lyrics that a lot of bigger names have developed. This did really well to give the whole performance a "we’re all in this together" feeling, and it always feels good to see a performer enjoying displaying his work in front of an audience as much as the audience enjoys consuming it.

For as nice as the new House of Blues it is – and it is very nice, with incredible acoustics and a humongous floor area as well as two balcony levels – it’s still fairly transparent that this is definitely a new venue, and in the interest of journalistic integrity I must mention that I never thought I would use "coat check" and "fiasco" in the same sentence, yet here we are. There has been a near forty-five minute standstill at the end of each show I have been to at the House, and really, shouldn’t leaving a place be the easiest part?

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