Nearly an hour and a half into his sold-out show, fresh-faced Chicago MC Lupe Fiasco paused to address the audience: “I’ve got love for L.A., from Compton and Watts to Malibu and Orange County.” The crowd predictably jeered the latter territories, but the statement rang true, aptly defining Fiasco’s broad appeal over many disparate demographics.
Donning a red and cream leather jacket and slim plastic sunglasses, Fiasco burst onto the stage with a focused intensity that seems increasingly rare in modern mainstream hip-hop — there was no posse, no shameless product hawking during the music, just focused rapping, a tight backing band and coolly delivered stage banter.
Concert was divided into two segments for his two albums, “Food & Liquor” and new disc “The Cool.”
The “Food & Liquor” songs brim with a wistful nostalgia evoking the singer’s youth in Chicago, whether it’s in the form of a skateboarding anthem (“Kick Push”) or an ode to inner-city life (“Daydream”). Fiasco doesn’t simply transmit stories with journalistic detachment but transports the listener into his inner world of fantasy.
Highlights of the first set included the mixtape mash-up featuring Gorillaz’s “Happy Industries” and the Kanye West collaboration “Touch the Sky.” Maroon 5’s Adam Levine joined the band onstage to sing a few hooks, most impressively fleshing out the jazz-inflected chorus of “Daydream.”
The second set found Fiasco dressed in a dapper black shirt while leaning heavily on material from “The Cool.” The energy level came down significantly, and the songs seemed to lack the immediacy and focus of the show’s first portion. New single “Superstar” provided a jubilant finale, but the performance had clearly been stretched out beyond its ideal duration.