Lupe Fiasco: n. an early exit which leaves the audience or spectator miffed, vaguely annoyed, standing (or sitting) like a dope in awkward disbelief
Girlfriend leave you, suddenly, without saying a word? That's a Lupe Fiasco.
A post-coital rush to the frontdoor? That's a Lupe Fiasco.
Co-worker exit a meeting mid-presentation? Lupe freakin' Fiasco.
Okay, it wasn't that bad when Lupe Fiasco exited the stage Sunday night without performing an encore, leaving the audience at the Midland milling about like Branch Davidians without Koresh.
Of course the concert encore has become rote, obligatory, predictable: a standard polish. But the fact is, the post-performance performance has become expected. (Maybe you don't give a shit about the Friday fireworks at Kauffman stadium--maybe you won't even stick around to see them--but you'll be damned if an array of synthetic stars isn't popping off as you pack up the grill.)
When Lupe left without an encore last night, his drummer tossing his sticks to the crowd as the only departing gift, there wasn't as much as a cross word uttered by the crowd.
The two-hour set delivered as much as could be expected on a Sunday date, undoubtedly squeezed in between bigger performances on the Steppin' Lasers tour.
Dressed in fatigues, a black t-shirt, oversized sunglasses, and black fingerless gloves, the Chicago-bred MC wore the perfect unfirom of an artist that's been conducting special-ops on his own genre, injecting lyrical and intellectual life into the moribund body of samesong corporate radio.
A live drummer and electric guitarist turned Lupe's set into something of an alternative rock-fest, an uncharacteristically instrumental hip-hop performance and glimpse into the sort of forward-looking musical vision for which Lupe has become known.
Before he arrived, local artist Les Izmore and his band, Hearts of Darkness, got funky with a set of politically-minded lyrics accented by the swinging rhythms of a small horn-and-reed section. Izmore surprised the crowd when he invited fellow local Dutch Newman onstage for a performance of "Jedi Knight."
Lupe introduced himself to Midland's operatic stage at around 9:30pm, pushing his way through a set that lasted nearly two hours. Not wasting much time in interacting with the capacity crowd, the diminutive rapper instead crammed the evening full of his intellectual firebrand of hip-hop.
After beginning with "Shining Down," he treated listeners to "Solar Midnite," a tale of strangelove from the New Moon soundtrack. I can see the truth in you, he told the crowd, peaking through the sonic shroud of the electric guitar to his left. Even when you're lyin'.
The remainder of the set ripped through standard classics from the Fiasco canon, a growing body of work that forms a gloved finger distinctly thrust upward at homoegenized hip-hop trends. Lupe aired out his historic frustrations with the mainstream on "State Crime Radio," blasted militaristic ambition on "The Cool," then later marked his evolution to present success with "I'm Beamin'" in the final moments of the evening.
As much as the guitarist and live drummer altered the aura of Lupe's music from rap to rock, an arresting evolution from his sound on wax, the instrumentation also gave birth to a sound so big that it threatened to overwhelm the intricate, personal and high-minded lyrics of the rapper known for sentimental favorites like "Hip-Hop Saved My Life."
The fans--a diverse collection of youngsters and middle-aged folks--didn't seem to mind the evolution, the amped, laser-lit sound, or the disappearing lyrics. If you're a fan of Lupe, lyrics, by now memorized, are perhaps an afterthought.
Even as he exited the stage without offering much in the way of significant thanks to the crowd, heading for the bowels of the Midland as fans chanted for an encore, people seemed quick to relent, heading to the doors without so much as whispers of defiance or frustration.
Forgiveness from a loyal fanbase? Maybe. Or maybe everyone was ready to get to bed, the Saturday hangovers still hanging. Or maybe, in a different context, we've just all experienced our own Lupe Fiasco before.
Songs I recognized:
State Crime Radio
Hip Hop Saved My Life
Go Go Gadget Flow
Streets on Fire