SHABAZZ PALACES at Lee’s Palace, Tuesday, April 23. Rating: NNN
A typical rap show, it is not. There is no hype man, there is no call and response, there are hardly any catchy hooks and there is almost no singing along.
Ishmael Butler is a magnetic front man, so none of those things are necessary. Wearing a Jackson Pollock-esque splatter sweatshirt, he spat with simultaneous fury and joy, moving in staccato sync with his clipped, quick rhyming. When he was vocally silent, he was hunched over his computer/mixer table. And he wasn't just mixing, he was playing the shit out of that mixer - the energy from his entire body pouring into his thumb and index finger.
Meanwhile, beside him, Tendai Maraire alternated between tapping his drum pad and banging his congas, as well as throwing in some ambient singing.
When the two would sporadically break into coordinated dance moves - 90s R&B group style - it was as surprising and it was delightful.
Openers THEESatisfaction, an also-from-Seattle female alt hip-hop duo, joined in for the last few songs including a crowd-pleasing rendition of Swerve, their collaborative effort from Shabazz Palaces's 2011 album, Black Up.
There wasn't much for anyone unfamiliar with the music or not into this substrata of experimental hip-hop. To the uninitiated, the whole show might have seemed like one long, same-sounding jam session. But Shabazz Palaces aren't the type of performers to care much - they were performing for their fan base, niche as it may be.