a Super Bowl halftime show.
Lil Wayne is a shapeshifter -- and, at that, one who has already taken on enough forms to be just as at home on his New Orleans streets as he is on the President's iPod. Saturday night at the Gexa Energy Pavilion, the crowd was a study in Weezy's mass appeal.To that end, his 90-minute set was a bombastic variety show, and it served as a playground for Lil Wayne's rambunctious personality.
Throughout the night he showed the many faces of his personality, with the hip-hop kingpin mode sliding to the side for other faces to step forward. The rock-inspired Rebirth-era Weezy came out, as did the R&B singer in a rousing rendition of "How To Love" from his new record Tha Carter IV, a record that sold a million copies in half of a pay period.
The energy of his performance was incredible. His gravelly flow scissored through the clear and booming sound from the P.A., and his nonstop energy kept the crowd on edge, wondering what the next turn would be. That was tough to predict; Wayne simply cannot stay still, and he showed that by his numerous attempts to skate up and down a quarter pipe that was set up on stage. (Successful attempts: one.)
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Although he pitched Tha Carter IV, the set didn't make the new songs Wayne's focus, instead opting for a slew of old hits that pleased the crowd, including "Got Money," "A Milli," "We Be Steady Mobbin'" and "Swag Surfin'." His female vocal support, Shanell, provided massive exuberance -- she even spelled Wayne for a couple songs and kept the energy high.
When he did dip into Tha Carter IV, though, people totally lost it. Not one seated person was spotted by this journalist during "She Will," and the venue appropriately shuddered during an a cappella performance of "Nightmares of the Bottom." The roof also proceeded to blow off of Gexa when he shut the show down with "6'7'."
His humor and energy get him far, but it's Lil Wayne's wit that puts him over. Punchline after punchline, Weezy delivers an unstoppable flurry of knockout blows -- so much so that it's a lot to handle in person. The man writes nothing but hits, and the fury with which he delivers them makes him one of the hardest-working men in show business.
And yet he was also remarkably humble on this night, and he thanked the crowd repeatedly. He even had a personal list of three commandments for the night: "I believe in God" was the first, while "I ain't shit without you" was number two and number three, apparently. He even went so far as to say that his recent time in jail was "the most valuable time in [his] life," as it gave him time to reflect on just how much his fans do support him.
But on the flip side of that was the Lil Wayne that just loves women. Numerous times he made references to and about women, whether it was lusting after opening act Keri Hilson or mischievously air humping Shanell behind her back. And the whole shebang (which included mentor Birdman) came with a troupe of dancers, whose wardrobe changes were as numerous as Weezy's personas.
The dancers themselves were a sight to behold. They weren't just an exercise in synchronized movement; they acted out fighting each other at times, adding something to the show. And, yes, there was a fair amount of butts shaken to the sky. They even climbed about a fence brought out on stage for no other purpose other than allowing Lil Wayne to be surrounded by climbing girls.
The stage setup itself was a monster -- a DJ perched inside of a two-level video wall at the back of the stage and a scaffolding bridge that dropped from the ceiling that allowed Wayne to walk from the stage to the back of section 101. All of this, along with the sparks and simulated giant gunshot to the crowd, made the Lil Wayne show seem kind of like a sexed-up Super Bowl halftime show.
Although we saw a gamut of facets from Wayne, he came off as extremely honest. Attempting to draw a box around Lil Wayne is a difficult endeavor as he spans so much territory and appeals to so many. All of the humility that Lil Wayne showered us with on Saturday night came off as sincere, though. This despite him closing his show (before he played the encore) with "I am Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr., and I am the best rapper alive, good night."
Rick Ross held the stage for a half hour before Lil Wayne's set. The large body slowly ambled from spot to spot on the stage as he strongly voiced his confident boss demeanor to a rowdy crowd into his favorites. "All I Do Is Win," MC Hammer," and "Ima Boss" were all a smash. Because of the combination of Ross' large presence, his upcoming album God Forgives, I Don't, and his DJ busting out the "Maybach Music" drop after every single song, his set seemed to be little more than a billboard for Rick Ross. He would also probably like you to know that he is self-made, something he made reference to about 14 times.
Personal Bias: I don't like rap music. I like hip-hop.
Random Note: The crazy crowd was crazy as ever, with several members dropping gems in the quote department. A personal fave was one female fan who explained she'd do if she caught one of the concert-worn shoes that Lil Wayne tossed to the crowd after his set. It involved cutting it up into a bunch of pieces and a bunch of luckiness after that.
By the Way: OK, the crowd wasn't that crazy. The packed venue was raucous but the audience was surprisingly well-behaved.