Concert review: Kid Cudi and Big Boi, April 29 at Barnhill Arena

April 30th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Kid Cudi performing Sunday night at Barnhill Arena. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

Someone I follow on Twitter suggested there was an error in the billing of the Chip tha Ripper, Big Boi and Kid Cudi show at the University of Arkansas’ Barnhill Arena on Sunday (April 29) night.

Big Boi, one half the rap giant (and ever-present soundtrack at clubs during my collegiate days) OutKast, was clearly the bigger deal than Kid Cudi, a relative newcomer to the scene, this person argued. But it was Kudi who was slated as the headliner.

A case can be made for the argument — OutKast earned several Grammy Awards and sold some 25 million records before going on hiatus in 2006, which turned Big Boi (and partner Andre 3000) into solo artists.

Kid Cudi, meanwhile, has released a few mixtapes and albums, including a rock-inspired departure as frontman for the band WZRD, which backed him live in concert Sunday night.

Sales of the project have been respectable, but nothing nearly as stout as what was enjoyed by OutKast in its prime.

But it’s no longer 2003, and record sales no longer serve as the best indicator of current popularity.

Instead, we have YouTube, where Kid Cudi’s single “Pursuit of Happiness” has been viewed nearly 40 million times. And we have Twitter (where he has half a million followers) and Tumblr and many other ways to connect with fans.

And judging by the reaction given to Kid Cudi (real name Scott Mescudi), it’s clear which of the two performers had the crowd’s heart on Sunday evening.

The furious dancing and swaying offered in response to his hour-long set looked like a sea trashing in high winds, raised arms substituting for whitecaps. About 7,000 attended Sunday night’s show, which was produced in part by the Headliner Concerts Committee, a student-ran group that collects University of Arkansas student fee money and books marquee acts. Part of the deal establishes that many tickets were distributed free to students, and after that allotment was consumed, tickets went on sale to the general public. As a result, the crowd was very young, to the point where the average attendee couldn’t have purchased alcohol in the venue if it was indeed sold there.

Cudi has limitations as a pure vocalist — his range has neither high peaks or deep valleys. Some of that may be due to the sound issues present at Sunday’s arena show. I thought the sound was muddy for all vocalists, not just Cudi. Similarly, I had a hard time hearing his guitarist over the din of the drums, bass and occasional keyboard flourishes. Speaking of guitars, Cudi is billed as a guitarist and drummer, but touched no instruments other than a microphone last night.

Big Boi

Sound or vocal issues aside, as a hype man, Cudi had the crowd at his command, and they sang back to him often at full force, especially on “Pursuit of Happiness,” his final song of the night.

Other big moments came during “Soundtrack 2 My Life” and “Hyyerr,” where he was joined by opening act and frequent collaborator Chip tha Ripper.

Big Boi had a few moments, too, but they were more of the fleeting variety.

The crowd, except for a dedicated few near the front of the stage, were mostly inactive for Big Boi’s hour-long set, which pulled both from his Outkast days (“Rosa Parks,” “So Fresh, So Clean” and “Ms. Jackson”) and his solo recordings. He too had a live band, and one of my favorite moments of the night was an improvised scratch session from the DJ followed by a brief drum solo.

Otherwise, Big Boi, dressed in camouflage, lacked pizzazz, and he spent most of the night pacing the stage as a video screen behind him played videos synced to the onstage occurrences. His time onstage was a celebration of three things he mentioned in bulk — weed, driving Cadillacs and cursing.

Chip tha Ripper

I don’t think anyone left Big Boi’s set with disappointment, it’s just that the response from the largely college-aged crowd never once rivaled the hour-long mania of Cudi.

It’s hard for me to believe, but “Speakerboxxx,” Big Boi’s solo half of the OutKast double album “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” was released neary 10 years ago.

A lot has changed since then. And last night offered a reminder of that truth — a lot of radios (and YouTube viewers, blog readers, etc…) are focused on Kid Cudi.

A note about the opener: Chip tha Ripper played a very short set, clocking in at just 25 minutes. Sound issues complicated my enjoyment of the performance, too. I have no idea what he said the entire time he was onstage, except for when he paused to tell the audience to scream loud.

 

Kid Cudi set list (as pulled from the stage): 1) RevofEv; 2) Teleport 2 Me, Jamie; 3) Scott Mescudi vs The World; 4) Soundtrack 2 My Life; 5) Ghost!; 6) Mojo So Dope; 7) We Aiite (Wake Up Your Mind); 8) Marijuana; 9) Up Up & Away (The Wake & Bake Song); 10) Man on the Moon; 11) Erase Me; 12) Hyyerr; 13) Mr. Rager; 14) Muchomegamix; 15 Pursuit of Happiness