Common, N.E.R.D. House of Blues September 10, 2008
Better than: The bar service in the House of Blues' restaurant last night.
(From the Houston show, not last night's Dallas gig))
You can really liken N.E.R.D.’s show to a rollercoaster ride--the first half of it's like creeping out of the tunnel after your lap bars lock down. If you were to take away the audio they'd just be a bunch of kids shuffling around on the stage.
There was no mistaking Pharrell, though--the glint of his diamond earrings could even be seen from the bar at the back of the room. Those other guys (you can't help but to feel like P keeps them in the group as a promise to his childhood buddies) did little more than nod fiercely and sing along on the hooks.
They started creeping closer to the apex with "Bobby James," and then snatched us sharply down the first hill, and that's where all the fun began. A frenetic light show on stage turned up the energy for "Rockstar" and "Spaz." "Lapdance" was definitely the loop, and "Everybody Nose" was the corkscrew twist--a spectrum of elated ladies were pulled onstage for that song, all of them doing pretty much the white-chick body-rolling two-step (you've seen it before, trust me).
But one raven-haired hottie in particular brought her A-game. In her vest and scarf getup (a recurring fashion trend that evening), she posed, shook and slung her hair with the skill of a Mavs dancer. When some miscellaneous girl was dancing with P, she strutted over, took his hand and led him away from her so she could have her 15 seconds. Nice.
Common's set was modeled after a club, and a marquee read "The Cooler. Common/N.E.R.D. Souled Out" as the skit began.
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And, from the second he spoke his name, all the women in the building went wild. As he announced that his new album called Universl Mind Control (just changed from Invincable Summer as we reported) produced by the Neptunes is due soon, my friend noticed that the design on his tee shirt looked extremely phallic. I thought it was a feather, but for the rest of the night it was a penis in my mind. Thanks--that made "Go" and "Sex for Sugar" particularly funny. Though he paused between songs to tend to the skit of being in a club, Common powered through his performance like a running back: sharp, focused and sexy as hell. The DJ threw the room into party mode with a musical montage that included the house music anthem "Chaos" and the baseline to "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes.
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To my surprise he performed "The Light," (you know, the one with Erykah Badu in the video) and one has to wonder how he feels about performing that song in his ex's hometown. Well there's obviously no love lost because, during his show stopping freestyle, he shouted her out, and made some references to T.O., Romo and Nowitski--and we all loved it. --Quia Querisma
Critic’s Notebook: Personal bias: This may as well have been the “my imaginary boyfriends tour” since I am madly in love with both Common and Pharrell.
Random note: Pharrell joined Common onstage during “There’s Nothing You Can Do,” decked out in a cardigan and thick glasses. Full nerd mode.
By The Way: Thank you to Sarah Bueno for identifying “Seven Nation Army” for me. I always heard that bassline in club mixes and I never knew what song it was.