Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013
Better than: Their June show at Stern Grove, from what we heard.
There was a moment -- er, make that a year or so -- where it was pretty much impossible to go anywhere in public without hearing Del the Funky Homosapien's inimitable drawl on the Gorillaz' "Clint Eastwood." It got to a point where we were, yes, a little sick of the song. We can say with some certainty that we were not alone in this.
My, what a difference a decade can make.
Suffice it to say, the crowd did not seem unhappy last night when Del, cloaked in a grey hoodie as he paced the stage, supported by an exuberant Dan the Automator, Kid Koala, and a 16-piece orchestra, launched into "Clint Eastwood" for their last song of the night. Of course, had a single person at the sold-out Fillmore been experiencing feelings of unhappiness when they arrived Saturday night, said feelings were likely either hotboxed out of existence within their first 10 minutes of being in the room or crushed shortly thereafter under a wall of sound and the overwhelming visual spectacle produced by 24 people tearing through a space-age hip-hop musical of sorts onstage.
This was a hometown show, and they played it like a victory lap. Meaning: loudly, confidently (despite being loose in places), with equal parts attention to detail, showmanship and a general feeling that, shit, they were home for a minute. Why not just have a good time? Del was casually messing with a skateboard on and off throughout the just-under-90-minute set, as though we'd all just run into him out in the yard at a block party and Oh wait, there's this orchestra behind me, I guess I might as well perform an arm-hair-raising rendition of "Memory Loss" while I have this sweet horn section.
When it first dropped in 2000, Deltron 3030 was a revelation: subversive in its vision of a future run by corporations; pioneering in its sense of what a hip-hop concept album could be; unabashedly, intentionally and yet very naturally weird in that way that's often exactly what's allowed Del to stand out from his peers. Thirteen years later, with the trio's second LP not yet eight weeks old, what's perhaps most impressive is how little that first record has aged, how little of it sounds out of place -- due in part, of course, to it having helped set the stage for a wave of progressive hip-hop in the first half of the aughts.
In that context, it's understandable that some songs off the new record, Event II -- like the anthemic, guitar-fuzz-heavy "Nobody Can" -- seem like territory that's been trodden already, with just a pinch less of the geek humor that made 3030 so refreshingly, excitingly strange. Which is not to say they didn't sound great live, especially when you add in the visual of Dan the Automator as an orchestral director gone mad with power, grinning and verily skipping around the stage in a tuxedo jacket with tails as he conducted not just the professional musicians forming the stage's backdrop but the audience, the walls, the ceiling, coaxing the crowd and the room itself into a rhythm until it felt like a cohesive, breathing army, ready to turn and march at a given moment toward whatever dystopian enemy Deltron, as a unit, might select.
For his part, the almost freakishly endearing Kid Koala got more time to than he usually does, which is, to understate it, a very good thing. As part of Deltron he's always an integral, grounding presence, but it was during his own opening hour that, alone and jovial in the spotlight, he captured hearts by doing not only a track for his daughter -- the song he made for "Yo Gabba Gabba," of course -- but his reinterpretation of "Moon River," his mom's favorite song. If you hadn't had the softer side of your emotional spectrum smoked out of you by that point in the evening, it was the kind of thing that might bring a tear to your eye.
Among the insanely large-seeming group of people onstage, at one point: Producer Just Blaze, who tweeted a thank you at Del for accidentally smacking him "while trying to ollie 30 seconds before showtime."