Time runs out for Tabi Bonney at Middle East gig

A review of Tabi Bonney at the Middle East Downstairs on May 30, 2009

, Staff

Washington D.C. based rapper Tabi Bonney has enjoyed a wave of buzz over the past few months, which has led to a nationwide headlining tour before a sting on this summer’s Rock The Bells touring festival. Unfortunately, for fans that made it out to the Middle East in Cambridge on Saturday night, Bonney’s set was plagued by time management issues that resulted in the headliner running out of time while performing his set.&

Bonney is a D.C.-based, indie rapper who has experienced a bit of breakthrough success with a catchy track called “The Pocket” off his debut album A Fly Guy’s Theme.& However, Tabi didnt arrive on stage till nearly 1 a.m. and kicked off his set with“Rich Kids” off his latest release Dope. This track would have been better suited if it had been accompanied by the, as advertised, live band that was to be performing with Tabi but since they were nowhere to be found, he rapped over his own record. He continued with “Go Hard” and “No Sucker”, more tunres from his new& sophomore album, and then the show culminated with him being shut off at 1:34 a.m. as he was ready to perform the jam that everybody wanted to hear “The Pocket.”&

Bonney’s albums have a refreshing style that reveal a backpack rapper influence with a bit more universal flair. He cleverly goes on about coining phrases in songs like “The Pocket” and finds unique ways of conveying those images of what he relates to, being based in D.C., but his live performance just did not match up. It might be the case that he is another rapper whose albums, “A Fly Guy’s Theme” and “Dope” are better than his shows are. I guess he has some time to work it out before he performs at Rock the Bells this summer. The two day show should prove plenty of time for preparation.

His late set and early departure was the result of a bill that was too crowded. As is common practice with most local hip hop shows, home-bred artists kick off the show and maneuver themselves onto the stage with the promise of a chance to ply their craft for new audiences. However, the show last Friday had too many local acts performing too many songs that resulted in Bonney’s butchered set.

The hands on the clock resembled the arms of tireless third base coaches as time got away from too many performers. One of the better local acts was a young man called D Stacks. He performed for the crowd and parlayed his rhyming ability nicely into the beats of the live band that accompanied him. With time becoming an issue local rap heavyweight Akrobatik came up with a solid set. Akrobatik has a large contingency of fans and the crowd was ready to “get into it” as he so directed them.

His stage presence was the thing. He came on stage with a Superman t-shirt and thankfully he did because he saved the show. After asking us how we were doing and if we were ready to get down he broke into his set. Akrobatik delivered a solid set and brought such welcomed breath control and diction to his rhymes that you couldn’t help but notice the difference.

Akrobatik brought a concert feel to a hip hop show. His jams were backed up by a live band that helped bring energy to the crowd. It was most evident when he played “A to the K” off his 2008 release Absolute Value. Akrobatik brought a sense of battle style energy and aggressiveness to his performance and as a result the crowd got into it for the first time all night. The energy of the crowd was finally tangible after lying dormant for nearly five hours. The sax, guitar, bass, drums and keyboard playing were a welcomed change from many of the previous bass laden performances.

Bonney was scheduled to hit the stage after Akrobatik, but the D.C. rapper decided to let another local group run through a couple of their own tracks before he came out. The hands on the clock were reaching 1:00 am and the crowd wanted to see the other rapper they paid for. With all of the waiting and delays, Bonney would have been bettered served if he had just come out and rapped. Instead he allowed lesser known performers to take away from time that was not in such ample supply anymore. Thankfully, he shouldn’t have the same issues when he returns to town this summer on the Rock The Bells tour.

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