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Lupe Fiasco live!

| November 4, 2009

Congress Theatre, Chicago
Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lupe Fiasco

Lasers, big lights, a JumboTron screen, and a full band featuring an animated guitarist were all pieces of Lupe Fiasco’s ever-visual Halloween show that drew a near-capacity crowd. While this West Side-raised rhymer has been quiet this year, his epic performance at the Congress reaffirmed his budding star power. 
 
Looking back, it was just more than three years ago when Lupe headlined the 2006 Chicago Rocks hip-hop festival without any of the aforementioned spectacles on the smaller Metro stage. And with only one big hit to his name then –- the skateboarding anthem “Kick Push” — he still sparked the crowd like few MCs of his generation can.
 
In 2009, Lupe has much greater expectations — from his label, fans, and most of all, himself. The MC’s commitment to excellence was particularly prominent in his well-rehearsed, two-hour-plus set. About halfway through the night, Lupe got annoyed with the way the visuals were being handled on the screen behind him and he demanded it be shut off. Then he explained that his concert had no corporate sponsors and since everything was being paid out-of-pocket, he wanted to make sure things were done right for the ticketholders’ sake. Whether this moment was staged doesn’t matter – Lupe’s point was heard.
 
Giving fans their money’s worth wasn’t a problem. After sharing his anti-ignorance rap theme “Dumb It Down,” Lupe declared, “it’s like marathon music right now.” Given the sheer amount of well-recognized material he performed, you would think he had been around as a solo artist for a decade and not for less than four years. With alternating assistance from backup vocalists Sarah Green and Matthew Santos, Lupe made mixtape cuts (“Happy Industries,” “Lupe The Killer”) sound as official as his biggest hits (“Daydreamin’,” “Superstar”). When not exploring the depths of his discography, he brought out fellow Chicago acts, both past (Crucial Conflict) and present (Dude N Nem), as a gesture that the local hip-hop movement is bigger than him.
 
It was about more than live music on this particular night though. Between sections of songs Lupe would fall back and let a series of clips of him being interviewed play on the gigantic screen in black and white, art-house style. By the end of the night, the frequency of these clips became excessive. But these Q&As were often so informative that the quotes he dropped are the type that journalists wish they could always obtain in interviews. There was one scene where he talked about his father’s death and how dealing with this grief inspired his sophomore LP ,The Cool (Atlantic), to be as dark as it was; he also explained that it made him appreciate life more than ever.
 
If fans ever wondered why Lupe got so political on a certain track or what inspires his song writing, they walked away with all the answers after this show. What they also went home with is an assurance that this lucid lyricist won’t be calling it quits from recording like he had planned to after his third album. Sure, he and band’s rendition of a new rugged, rock-fueled song was out of synch and they knew it, but even these slightly awkward segments reflected Lupe’s desire to always push his hip-hop forward. And because of that his third album, Lasers, will likely be one of the more important albums this winter.
 
— Max Herman 

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Category: Live Reviews, Weekly

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