Last Night: Girl Talk and The Cool Kids at the Granada Theater

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Girl Talk, The Cool Kids
Granada Theater
June 23, 2011

Better than: sweating to the oldies.

Greg Gillis is not an aerobics instructor.

But perhaps the man behind the ever-popular Girl Talk name should be. Because -- there's just no cutting around the bush here -- his 110-minute headlining performance at the Granada Theater last night felt like a workout.

It was everything the mashup king's fans wanted out of the concert, no doubt -- a thrilling stroll down instant nostalgia lane, a sweaty dance party, a sensory overload in the truest sense.

But, captivating as this all was, it was also somewhat confounding. For a few reasons.

The main issue at hand: It's not exactly clear -- never has been, really -- what Girl Talk is actually performing at his shows. Surely, most of the mashups he shares (from his computer set-up) are pre-recorded. Much of it, out of sheer necessity, is certainly pre-choreographed as well, at least to a degree.

Gillis dances, too. A lot. He's the best possible hype man his offerings could have as he, shirtless and with his hair pulled out of his eyes by a bandana worn like a headband, bounces around his computer and on top of his table set up, all the while surrounded by a gaggle of fans.

How, then, could he possibly have the time to create mashups on the fly? He can't, really. And he doesn't, necessarily: Many of the mashups he played last night had already been heard on record. Interestingly enough, it was these recognizable combinations (such as his blend of Ludacris and Black Sabbath that opens his 2010 free download release, All Day) that drew the biggest pop from his fans at this sold-out show.

Is it simply a matter of pressing play and letting the work speak for itself? Perhaps. Far as this crowd was concerned, that was all it needed to be.

It's an interesting study, indeed, a Girl Talk performance -- one that speaks volumes of our attention deficit disorder-filled culture, one that screams from the rooftops our obsession with popular culture, and one that proves that indie kids do in fact enjoy more Top 40 fare than they'll ever publicly let on.

A comical highlight of the night: Halfway through his set, fittingly, the backbeat dropped from the P.A., leaving only an a capella of the chorus from Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer." The entire theater, it seemed, screamed along at the top of their lungs.

More than anything, perhaps, a Girl Talk show is a study of herd mentality.

But it sure is fun. Without question. And Girl Talk is the best at what he does. That much, too, is indisputable -- the sweat-drenched shirts of his crowd, as they spilled out onto the Granada patio after the show ended, proved as much.

Still, it does look and feel like a spin class. The greatest, most insane, balls-to-the-wall spin class ever, perhaps. But a spin class nonetheless.

It came, too, with a proper warm-up exercise: Chicago-based rap duo The Cool Kids opened the show, starting promptly at 9 p.m., and playing songs from both their Bake Sale mixtape and upcoming proper full-length album debut alike. Skilled lyricists and well-practiced showmen, the duo, backed by a DJ who kept spinning their beats with between-song breaks, got the crowd properly amped for Girl Talk's set.

The only thing missing was a group stretching session.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I like mashups. I like Girl Talk. But I'd never seen him perform live before. Perhaps that's the root of my fascination/frustration/lack of understanding. I take that back: It almost certainly is.

Ranom Note: The Granada had jugs of water out front on the patio so fans could get free water if needed. Smart move, given certain circumstances at similar events of late.

By The Way: Oldest guy in the room? KTCK-1310 AM The Ticket's Mike Rhyner, host of afternoon drive-time show, "The Hardline." He told me it was his second Girl Talk show. He's a big fan. But he's never heard any of Girl Talk's recorded music, interestingly enough.

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