KMEL Block Party
Oracle Arena, Oakland
August 7, 2008
Review by Tamara Palmer
Better than: Bloc Party, the British indie rock band.
Watch: KMEL’s official recap and backstage interviews.
It was national stars and not local talent that took center at KMEL’s annual mega-jam last night. But what the show lacked in Bay-ness was assisted by the performers' obvious respect for the area.
After a long wait outside, we headed for our section and soon realized it would be somewhat of a feat to swim through the masses to reach our seats, especially since Atlanta’s Young Jeezy had just stormed the stage in an Athletics shirt and was peppering riffs of Tupac and Digital Underground into the bone-rattling bass of his set.
Miami’s Rick Ross also gave respect to the Bay Area rap scene by offering another Pac tribute and a “rest in peace” for Mac Dre, and the warm reception given him was solid evidence that we don’t care that his un rap-like past as a correctional officer was recently exposed. Still, the immense, sing-along crowd reactions to local songs played in between sets suggests that the audience would have certainly enjoyed seeing and hearing more of its own homegrown as well.
R&B artist and songwriter du jour Ne-Yo came out looking like something straight off of Savile Row, with not one but two sharp suits. He broke the relative monotony of the DJ-backed performances with the only live band of the night, even allowing the group a brief but impressive solo. He proved to be a polished gent that sounded just like he does on record.
T-Pain was the right choice for the last performer of the night. Between his own offerings and various guest appearances (for hits by Lil Wayne, Chris Brown and many others), the Tallahassee-bred and vocoded “rapper turned singer” is absolutely the most played artist on KMEL.
He brought out his new girl group Sophia Fresh to perform “Superbad,” a single which has been buzzing on KMEL for a few weeks (and generated a huge response when played earlier by a DJ during an intermission). The only performers of the evening to lip sync, the trio was instead free to treat the crowd to some booty shaking as their song boomed, “I’m Superbad, they want some of my McLovin!”
T-Pain seemed rightly frustrated by running through so many snippets of songs in what felt like one endlessly teasing medley, but the crowd ate it up. He closed his set and the show by quipping that he’ll perform as long as he wants to when he comes back later this year or early next on what he’s calling the Three Rings Tour, which is named after his forthcoming album. He told KMEL DJ Sana G that the name refers to the circus that is the music business, of which he has crowned himself the ringleader.
It was not quite the Greatest Show on Earth, but Block Party was an exciting night under the big top.
Personal bias: Owns an “I Got That Snow, Man” T-shirt.
Random detail: There were a disproportionate number of young ladies of several ethnicities with studs or other metal protrusions in their lip, which may well prove to be the nose ring of the Naughties.
By the way: Was all of that police presence really necessary?