Two hours after the announced showtime of 10:30, Nelly finally appeared on the House of Blues stage and dove into hits from debut album “Country Grammar.” St. Louis rapper played his set chronologically, leading up to songs that apear on his fifth album “Brass Knuckles,” which Universal/Motown released after the perf. Set was a mixed bag, with Nelly consistently breaking his momentum by pulling out a host of unrecognizable guest MCs.Nelly previewed selections from the new album, carefully mixing the unfamiliar material with recycled West Coast beats, a case of pandering to the Los Angeles audience. Armed with several new socially conscious songs, though, Nelly has found maturity as an artist; the absence of his signature band-aid and a surprise duet with current beau Ashanti played a role in his onstage reinvention, an apparent demonstration of a conscious level of growth. Performance, which featured hits such as “E.I.,” “Ride With Me.” “Air Force Ones” and “Shake Ya Tailfeather,” boasting a complex freestyle by Murphy Lee, was broken up by Avery Storm, who emotional renditions of R&B standards.
House of Blues; 1,000 capacity; $45.50
Band: Nelly, Avery Storm, Charles Burel, Donte Nolan, Keek Da Sneak. Reviewed Sept. 15, 2008.