Monday, February 15, 2010

Saturday marked the date of the rescheduled Mos Def & DOOM co-headlined show at the Congress Theater in Chicago. The concert was the first of three in a mini-tour featuring the artists. The other two shows will be in New York and Toronto. They were initially supposed to take place late January, but were rescheduled last minute due to a "scheduling error" on the part of Mos Def. The disorganization that resulted in the rescheduling should have served as a warning to fans as to the quality of the show.

As scheduled, the doors were to open at 7pm with the show starting at 8pm. By 8:30 we were in the middle of a three-block-long line stretching around the corner with nobody being let inside. When people were finally allowed in, nobody was yet onstage. Finally, as the large crowd began to gather around the stage, a DJ warmup act was sent out...then after his set, another DJ...and then another.


After the crowd had grown restless, the opening act took the stage. The Chicago hip-hop trio BBU was booed off stage, under fire by a barrage of bottles and cans in response to their borderline-racist lyrics and blatant immaturity. Chicago crowds are not known to be polite.


After an extended silence, a fourth DJ took the stage, followed by the second opener, Chicago MC Qwel. Despite audio problems, Qwel managed to keep the crowd entertained with rapid-paced acapella verses. He would be the only person to take the stage that night not to get booed off.

Once another DJ took the stage, the crowd had had enough. As more bottles flew onstage with water flying everywhere, the third act took the stage - California-based video DJ Mike Relm.

Mike Relm

His blend of video and audio mixing had the crowd entertained for a while, but in a sold-out 4000 guest capacity venue jam-packed to the point of near heat exhaustion, it is difficult to entertain for long. At various points throughout his set, an offstage figure would appear and send messages to Relm. At first, the crowd assumed that he was being told to wrap it up since the show had started so late to begin with. After his set neared two hours, the crowd quickly realized that the complete opposite was taking place - he was being urged to play longer since something wasn't right backstage. Once he stopped mixing videos and began simply playing them all the way through to save time, the crowd once again grew agitated and booed him offstage. Before he left he pleaded to the crowd, "All right, I've just got one more left," to which the overwhelming response was "No! We want Mos and DOOM now!!"

When yet another DJ was sent onstage, the crowd offered no quarter. "We want Mos! We want DOOM!" was repeatedly chanted. One guest started flinging CDs onstage, nearly damaging the backdrop. Unable to handle the stress of the evening, the local DJ made the mistake of telling the crowd "Okay, I'm with you, I'm with you. Look, Mos Def isn't here right now, but..." Before he could finish his sentence the crowd went nuts. Offstage people urged him to keep performing.

Psalm One

By 12:30 (five and a half hours after the doors were supposed to open), A woman took the stage. "My name is Psalm One," she said "Mos Def is in the building and they sent me out to spit a little something for you while they get ready." On any other night, an impromptu appearance by a famed underground MC like Psalm One would be warmly received, but tonight she was booed offstage after only two verses.

After another extended bout of silence, one of Mos Def's DJs took the stage. Typically, Mos travels with two. It had appeared that tonight was supposed to be no different since two DJ booths had been set up all night, waiting for their arrival. Tonight, however, his brother and second DJ, Gold Medal Man, was missing in action. After a few minutes of setting up, the DJ started a track. Amidst the flurry of his setup, various people from backstage rushed onto the stage and started feeding CDs into a player hidden behind the DJ booth and then disappeared offstage once more. When Mos still didn't take the stage, many in the crowd started screaming. "Don't even bother!" and "Refund" were chanted throughout the venue.

The shouts were silenced, however, when Mos began speaking from offstage. "Peace. Power. Understanding. Respect." he repeated from offstage. "Peace. Power. Understanding. Respect." Was this introduction planned, or was it created impromptu in an attempt to calm the crowd and garner forgiveness for his tardiness? It became clear very soon that it was most likely the latter.

Mos Def

Mos took the stage wearing a kimono-style jacket and an elaborate Mardi Gras mask on his face. (Before the show, I predicted that he would wear this mask. During his Japan tour, he took the stage wearing it every night as inspired by his previously-proclaimed respect for DOOM and his mask.) His opening two songs were both classic MF Doom tracks, to the crowds surprise. However, DOOM was nowhere to be seen. After taking the mask off, he proceeded to perform a mix of old and new tracks of his own.

The first couple songs went off without a hitch. It seemed though that a few tracks was as far as he had gotten in preparing a set list. Between every track, he paused to talk to his DJ before deciding what to play next. At one point, he stopped and stared at the restless crowd for a bit before stating unapologetically "All right, all right, calm down. We're all here now, so just calm down. Jesus Christ." After some fans shouted out "Where's DOOM?" he paused and asked "Who said that? Who asked where DOOM is?" After scanning the crowd he finished, "He's here. Just have faith. He's here. You guys have no faith."

The highlight of his performance came when he debuted a brand new song for the crowd. You can see him below reciting the new verse acapella before going into it with a beat. You can also see him attempting to move all the bottles and cans offstage while still chanting "Peace. Power. Understanding. Respect."

After 20 minutes, Mos put the mask back on and performed the first verse from Madvillain's "All Caps." Halfway through, Mos paused and DOOM jumped out from backstage, finishing the line. As DOOM entered, Mos quickly exited, virtually running offstage. The last thing he said to the crowd was "See, I told you." before he disappeared for the evening. He was only onstage for 20 minutes.

When DOOM took the stage the crowd cheered, but after all the other disappointments from the evening, they were skeptical. He seemed to be performing all the rhymes on beat, but he wasn't saying anything between songs at all. Instead, his hype-man did all the talking, "Glad to be here Chicago. Give it up for DOOM!" This, plus the fact that DOOM brought his own over-sized security guards onstage to block the front was a bit fishy. Finally, DOOM said something. As he turned his back and started to walk behind the DJ booth, he could be heard saying "Alright, let's get into that Madvillain shit." The problem, however, was that the DOOM onstage didn't have the mic anywhere near his face when he was supposed to have made the comment.

DOOM's "Hos"

Once a trio of nasty DOOM groupies took the stage and it was becoming more and more apparent that it might actually be a Doomposter holding the mic, more boos rang out and more bottles flew onstage. After 20 minutes without more than one sentence made between tracks, DOOM quickly exited, saying "Alright, we out."

When DOOM exited, his DJ waited onstage. It seemed as if the villain was planning on giving an encore, but the crowd was too furious at this point. When so many bottles and crushed beer cans flew onstage that the DJ was nearly hit in the face, he looked offstage and called it off. The house lights came on and the crowd began chanting "Refund! Refund! Bullshit! Bullshit!" as they exited.

You can see below that DOOM seemed way too on-point with his lyrics to have been the actual MC onstage. This would explain the CDs being fed into a player before the show. It's possible that he just got better than he was in all the live videos I've seen of him, but it's doubtful. Also, look at how massive and pissed off the crowd is at the end.

When the opening act (Mike Relm) is onstage for an hour longer than both headliners combined, you know something is up. That, plus the fact that the headliners arrived at the venue 5 1/2 hours after the doors were supposed to open, plus the fact that neither artist attempted to explain their lateness or offer up an kind of apology, plus the fact that it seemed like a fake DOOM onstage, plus the fact that Mos was horribly unorganized and didn't even know what track to play next, plus the fact that Gold Medal Man was absent, made for a thoroughly disappointing show.

Hopefully fans in Toronto and New York won't get such a shitty deal when the mini-tour comes through their cities later this month.

I'm pissed.

(Photos from TimeOutChicago.)


Anonymous said...

good review. this kind of fuckery makes me appreciate artists like kanye and lupe who put on great show and don't leave there fans pissed of at shows

-MikeG- said...

Thank you. That's very true about Kanye and Lupe putting on great shows. I do have one beef with Lupe's live performances though - I saw him twice during his last bout of touring and both shows were good, but they were EXACTLY the same. Even down to the timing of his jumps during tracks and his lighthearted banter between songs, pretty much word for word. The whole thing was entirely scripted. It was still fun to see him, but I would have like a little spontaneity. I guess they don't expect many people to travel and see them more than once.

Felipe said...

Great review man. I really thought that the show would run smooth since Mos Def was there too, but I guess the villainy got to him too.

I linked your review onto the site I write for ( so I could spread the word about this.

Esteban said...

I was there. Worst show ever.

Anonymous said...

I too was there...drove 5 hrs from Ohio for this show. I will never give either artits another penny of my money. All they had to do was apologize and I would have forgiven.

Anonymous said...

the funny thing to me is that that was really Doom.

Anonymous said...

This guy is still getting away with this crap??? I got jacked in Pomona, ca for a pre-rock the bells show at the glasshouse. Same formula as the review but he didn't even come out or even arrive he was "sick". We actually got a refund though.

Then the next year at rock the bells we saw the DOOMposter. waited forever and they had audio probs, they were late, and fake doom showed up for like 10 min. He attempted 2 perform but sound was onlu coming out of the monitors. Ppl booed, threw stuff then it was over.
Doomposter left and ppl were pissed.

Tony T said...

JohnA said...

Great review I saw your post on Beats and Bombs... I saw Doom at Soundset in Mpls this summer, he had a front page write up in all of our local papers, if you like his hype man it was a good show, they tried to do a skit were a fake doom came out then the real Doom came out, it took like 20 mins. After two really shitty song I left. Thanks for the review

I actually was thinking of booking a flight to Toronto (from Minneapolis) to see this. Maybe i'll go to Hawaii instead

DDoff said...

I recently "saw" Mos do a similar show at The Independent in San Francisco. It was billed as "Black on Both Sides - in its entirety," but Mos did a new, unreleased track between each track from B.O.B.S. Oh yeah, and he didn't come on until 12:30. On a Tuesday. Mos will always be one of my favorite MCs, but he continues to lose fans with horrible show after horrible show. Mos, wake up -- you're losing your fan base!!

Anonymous said...

Does any of this really surprise anyone? Doom was clearly lip-synching at Pitchfork (assuming that was even him onstage). For someone who says he wears a mask because an MC's personality shouldn't overshadow his music, he really doesn't seem to care too much about the music.

808Shirts said...

And if you ain't listening, replay "BEEF RAP". I quote "Its not about me!!!" “I tell you one thing: when you come to a Doom show, come expecting to hear music, don’t come expecting to see. You never know who you might see. It has nothing to do with a visual thing. Use your mind and think. I might be there.

-MikeG- said...

Believe me, I've done the homework and heard the songs ( I didn't boo along with the crowd, but I was still pissed. Not because it wasn't him, but because he showed up 5 1/2 hours late and put on a shitty and short show.

M Mac said...

they've closed the facebook comments on the Toronto show's facebook page, something's not right about that...

Anonymous said...

Iv been waiting for him to come to Toronto for ages. Iv always kept high spirits about him actually showing up but after reading all these links im very doubtful. i understand wheres he coming from with his "its about the music" crap but every other artist goes on stage and pays there respects to the fans he should to. Ill keep my fingers crossed for everyone going to the Toronto show.

chris said...

Doom & Def canceled the New York show so you at least had the honor of being lied to

Anonymous said...

Doom show it Toronto was disappointing.

I showed up from out of town at 11:30 hoping to catch the end of the set, and to my surprise the show scheduled for 10PM hadn't even started.

Waited around for an hour, listening to a playlist (not even a DJ) before a masked character took the stage eventually.

But his voice + rhythm didn't sound like MF tracks I know and love. Doubt it was even him.

The set started 2 hours late, was only like 8 songs long. Less than an hour of live music.

$50 tikets. Weak at best.


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