PLATINUM PIED PIPERS and JEAN GRAE at Harbourfront Centre, July 8. Tickets: free. Attendance: 800. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Confined to a studio, they may be able to compose some of the dreamiest R 'n' beats this side of 8 Mile Road. But how would the non-singing/rapping Detroit production team of Waajeed and Saadiq - the Platinum Pied Pipers - adapt their vocal-based Triple P record to the stage? Easy. With every trick in the book.
Okay, that's actually a bit of an overstatement. But from the moment the energetic, Groveresque duo (who emerged in vaguely pimped-up Sunday best threads) launched out and hit their respective axes amid the soul banging of their drummer, they did everything in their power to set the mid-size crowd's asses to auto-gyrate.
In their default modes, Waajeed held court on his thunderous beat machine while Saadiq provided his own low-end theories on bass, switching to keyboards occasionally. But when they roamed the stage, all kinds of freakiness ensued, most notably Saadiq's idiosyncratic dance - a violent left-to-right shimmy to the beat, his pristine white sneakers almost blinding under the lights.
The only thing those kicks couldn't outshine was the Pipers' Brooklynite guest diva, Tiombe Lockhart . Sporting a loud orange dress, she was the jewel of the set, her syrupy voice shining through various songs and surging out toward the water over the clanking drums of Stay With Me.
I can't say how "platinum" they are, but if they'd all kept playing while walking down the street, I'd probably have followed.
It's a damn good thing they didn't, or we'd have missed Jean Grae , one of the most charismatic, lyrical MCs out there, catching wreck 'bout an hour later in Harbourfront Centre's Brigantine Room .
It didn't kick off well for the X-Men-inspired performer, who interrupted Take Me with sound complaints, insisting to her audience that she just wanted them to have a good show. Soon, though, Grae got unanimous hands up with no hype man, just her DJ in the back, as she roamed through her catalogue of bangers.
She also split everyone's sides with her remarkable off-the-cuff comic timing and delivery, softly dissing the "slightly rhythmless" audience she encountered in Connecticut, and dramatically over-thanking the lone black woman in the front for coming to her show. ("Usually I'm the only one!") She even got the audience two-stepping.
Connecticut's got nothing on the T-dot.