Click the photo for an audio slideshow featuring Gabriel Teodros, the Coup and Lyrics Born. All photos by Michael Alan Goldberg
Date: March 3, 2007 Venue:Neumo's
I don't know what show you might've gone to on Saturday night — or any night in the years 2003-2006 — but I guarantee that none of them were as spectacular as the Coup's hour-long set at Neumo's. The fact that the politically minded Oakland, California hip-hop/funk/soul outfit led by Boots Riley was there at all is something of a miracle: The band suffered a horrible tour bus accident near San Diego three months ago (the bus flew down a ravine, flipped over, and exploded); miraculously, everyone survived, though nearly all of them sustained serious injuries. Though it's hard to say with certainty that they now subscribe to the "live each day as if it's your last" philosophy, the quintet ripped through their nearly hour-long set like their existences depended on it.
With a backing drummer, guitarist, and bassist laying down intense grooves, Riley — immaculate Afro, stylin' '70s garb, and all — shimmied and glided across the stage and spit soulful, righteous rhymes from the Coup's recent Pick a Better Weapon. He got the sold-out audience jumping and sweating as much as he was just fine, but the biggest crowd favorite was colorfully attired singer/rapper Silk E., who threw her amazing voice and entire body into the performance with an energy, spirit, and total abandon like few I've ever seen before.
Riley got lots of heartfelt cheers from the crowd by thanking everyone for the financial and emotional support the band received in the wake of the bus accident, but the band's real thanks to the people was putting on a show for the ages.
There was no possible way that Lyrics Born and his five-piece backing band — which included songstress (and Mrs. LB) Joyo Velarde, plus a drummer, bassist, guitarist, and keyboardist — could have topped that set, but they came pretty close. Drawing from his solo debut, Later That Day..., and throwing in some of his older Quannum singles and a couple new songs as well, born-showman LB and crew went for more of the old-school rap/funk-soul party vibe, acting playful onstage (if a tiny bit scripted rather than spontaneous) and encouraging loads of audience participation during their 90-minute set. Joyo, a first-class singer/belter whose vocal style and stage presence is that of a much cooler, more down-to-earth Mariah Carey, was a terrific foil to her hubby's trademark growl and sing-songy, super-speedy flow. Of the band, bassist Uriah Duffy — who's also a member of Whitesnake (!) — was the most accomplished and fervent; at one point he took center stage for a lengthy, flashy solo direct from the Larry Graham/Flea school (I know, I know, bass solos ... it was still cool, and well-received, though).
A smiling LB returned to the front and tried to outdo him with his larynx, spitting couplets with Olympics-level dexterity, and judging by the response, he succeeded. By the time the sextet got to "Callin' Out" and "I Changed My Mind" — which closed out the set (a four-song encore did follow) — LB's calls for the crowd to "make some noise" were greeted by perhaps the most deafening screams and applause I've ever heard at Neumo's, or anywhere else in town.
Local rapper Gabriel Teodros — joined on the mic by his South Seattle partner in rhyme Khingz to form their outfit Abyssinian Creole — opened the show with a half-hour of inspired bounce and flow on the positive, Golden Age tip, not entirely unlike A Tribe Called Quest. Their calls for racial/social unity, and self-love and self-empowerment, went down smooth and powerful; between these guys and Blue Scholars, Seattle hip-hop is in some very skilled hands at the moment.