Underlining his enviable position as a rapper with a still-healthy 17-year track record, LL Cool J barked to a packed house: “I came to the House of Blues to prove I’m still LL Cool J,” and proceeded to slam through his considerable repertoire of hits with all the muscularity that made him a rap legend. His hard-charging 45-minute set opened with his 1997 hit “Phenomenon.” His command of the stage has not waned, despite not having performed in years.
LL, a.k.a. Todd James Smith, kept the audience in a frenzy with outstanding renditions of “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” (his first hit), “The Boomin’ System,” “Give Me My Cell Phone,” which utilizes a sample from fellow Def Jam/Def Soul Records labelmate Montell Jordan’s “Get It On Tonite,” all fueled with ample amounts of testosterone, crotch-grabbing and a running, absolutely hilarious water-drinking “attempt.”
The “attempt” was pure theater, accentuating his still potent image as a sex symbol. As the water mingled with his body sweat, inevitably drenching the rapper even more than a hot sauna, women swooned with delight and desire, an effect LL clearly took advantage of throughout the set.
He invited nearly 20 women onstage — after passing out roses during the perf of his mainstream breakthrough single, “I Need Love” — and the ladies swayed, danced and touched his amply sculpted body. The move was riotously raunchy, showing just how strong a hold he had on the audience.
LL’s longtime DJ, Cut Creator, brought the party aspect back with the tumultuous “Rock the Bells,” a thunderous cut backed with a sledgehammer beat. LL punctuated the song with a furious kick of the microphone stand that narrowly missed knifing through one of the 15 televisions onstage that mirrored his every move.
His encore, the newly released “Love You Better,” was the weak point of the show, simply because the audience had less of an emotional investment in the tune. Few were familiar with the song. The exhausted audience headed out the door before the song was over.
Opening was Naam Brigade, a rap quartet from Philadelphia with a raw-edged vocal approach. Their four-song set relied on a beat-heavy approach, which was accentuated by their first single release, “Early In The Game,” which, at points, swelled to a monumental crescendo with deft string touches.