Concert Reviews

Last Night: Talib Kweli, Ozomatli and Surprise Special Guest Bun B Rock RedBull's SoundClash at the Palladium Ballroom

Red Bull SoundClash with Ozomatli, Talib Kweli & The Rhythm Roots Allstars with Special Guest Bun B
Palladium Ballroom
October 28, 2010

Better Than:
Anything else worth the $10 ticket price.

The Palladium looked a little different last night.

Instead of the conventional one stage people have become accustomed to, there were two stages facing each other.

On the remaining empty sides, there was a DJ and a host for the night. And in the middle of this square of stages? Well over 1,000 fans.

The stage--I mean stages--were set for Red Bull's SoundClash pitting Talib Kweli & The Rhythm Roots Allstars against Ozomatli.

And, boy, did sounds clash: Everything from hip-hop to metal to jazz to salsa to samba to rock 'n' roll and reggae--pretty much any genre that could be imagined with a live band--was performed.

There was also more energy than even Red Bull could handle: Talib Kweli and Ozomatli put on a show that was both exhilarating and exciting, with thoroughly entertaining surprises in each round of their competition to win over the crowd's affection.

Before the show, we asked Ozomatli's Wil-Dog about how his band was feeling about the show: "Each time we heard the other band play [in practice], we had to up the ante" he says. "We're not the best at any genre... our diversity is our strength."

The attitude of Ozomatli was a fairly competitive one: "Really, what it's about is a performance" Wil-Dog said. "And who's the best."

Talib's backing band Rhythm Roots AllStars felt a different, more zen-like approach to the affair: "You know, at the end of the day, it's not really even about winning" drummer Fish said. "It's just about us sharing the love of music."

And share they did.

Ozomatli played first and and got the crowd going. They brought their signature Latin funk sound to the delight of a lot of dancing women everywhere. Then the other stage turned on, and the Rhythm Roots AllStars began to play with Talib Kweli entering the stage to a crowd of screaming fans chanting "Kweli! Kweli!"

The bands were warmed up and the stages were set. The question at hand: Could Ozomatli's diversity in sound and creative ideas trump Talib Kweli's impeccable rapping delivery? 

Host Jake Crates explained how the competition would work. First up, each band had to play a cover of a song chosen by the DJ, Oak Cliff's DJ Sober.

He chose Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher." Ozomtali proceeded to play a heavy metal version of the song, with everyone playing at the same time to create a headbanging experience. To up the ante, they brought in a mariachi band of women with violins to give it a Latin-metal taste. The results was something that had a lot of people doing something between a headbang and a salsa dance.

Kweli answered with a hip-hop version of "Hot for Teacher," rapping the verses and singing the chorus. His was a less noisy version with a slower tempo, giving a feel reminiscent of Aerosmith and Run DMC's "Walk this Way."

Crowd response crowned Ozomatli that round's winner.

The second round saw the bands playing their own songs and then each other's songs. The first song was Ozomotli's "Saturday Night," which had the entire crowd dancing. Talib answered with a nearly perfect, true-to-form rendition of the song--not too surprising considering it's a rap song. Kweli chose "Listen!" as his song, and Ozomatli proceeded with a salsa version. After similar renditions of "Cumbio des Muertos" and "Brown Skin Lady," Ozomotli was again crowned victorious.

The next round saw the bands asked to play their own songs in various styles. First up? Metal, with which Ozomotli did very well. But the Rhythm Root's guitarist had a solo that presented sheer dominance in skill. Next up: Reggae and Samba, which Ozomotli naturally did well at--although, surprisingly, Kweli pulled off just as well. Ozomotli scored points with the crowd, though, for their maneuver--leaving the stage and creating a drum circle in the crowd--something Ozomotli's been known to do. Kweli's response of his biggest hit performed last night, "Get By," won over the crowd, though--and with it the third round.

And so things headed to the final, Joker round, with each side could bringing in a guest performer to help their sets. Kweli started first--and introduced a name caused the entire Palladium crowd to erupt.

Bun B joined Kweli on stage--suddenly leapfrogging Kweli as the biggest name in the house. With the Texas legend beside him, Kweli and his band performed a rendition of Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin'"--a tough act for any band to follow.

Ozmotli had something in the works, though. As Bun B and Talib Kweli finished, the crowd turned around to Ozomatli's stage only to find it dark, with only one guy in a Halloween mask on it. When the bass line from "Thriller" came on, it became clear who he was--a Michael Jackson impersonator, and one who actually looked and acted pretty much like the real thing, Thriller dance and all. Ozomatli's entire band then joined him to create a choreographed fiesta of fun.

Too bad Bun B had already stolen the show. In a landslide, Kweli won the final round--and with it the entire competition. And for his encore victory song, Kweli invited Ozomotli to his stage, where they all began to play "I Try" in unision.

It was reminiscent of Kweli drummer Fish's statement earlier in the night. He was right. At the end of the day, no one really cared about the competition.

Besides, it didn't matter. Ozomotli didn't win. Talib Kweli didn't win.

Bun B won.

Critics Notebook
Personal Bias: I'm a fan of both artists, but Talib Kweli was integral in getting me into hip-hop. But I've spent a lot of time with Ozomotli's music lately and have really begun to appreciate their art. As a result, I was pretty unbiased ...till Bun B came in.

Random Note: Considering the generally slower vibes of both Talib Kweli's and Ozomatli's fans, there were a lot of people headbanging at this show. Kind of surprised me. Then I realized half the audience was hopped up on Red Bull.

By the Way: Both sides seemed to try to win over the crowd with props, with Ozomatli using a lot of Texas Rangers props and Talib wearing a Rangers cap and a Longhorns cap over the course of the night. Panderers.

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Sartaj Chowdhury
Contact: Sartaj Chowdhury

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