Ed. note – Regal Radio Online plans to offer coverage into the culture of Chicago, including its nightlife with its series of “Regal Night Out” stories. First is our initial live show review from Regal contributor David Evans.
David Evans, Regal Radio
The Shrine hosted a night of excellent hip hop performances Friday night as it welcomed the Chef Raekwon for his first headlining performance at the South Loop hotspot. Openers for the Wu-Tang veteran included Chicago underground standout MC Adad and Detroit’s Guilty Simpson, also at the Shrine for the first time.
Topping off the night was a surprise visit from Talib Kweli, who performed a song with Raekwon during his set. Kweli, who’s quickly become a regular in Chicago, was in town this weekend for his own set at the Double Door Saturday.
Another packed and diverse Shrine audience showed out throughout the evening at the stage-side bar; close to me and fellow Regal Radio representer Kyle Means stood two South American cameramen, a young group of several hard drinking Puerto Rican men (more of them later) and a short young white guy wearing a gray cardigan, accompanied a young black guy who resembled the singer Tricky. The show began at approximately 10 p.m., with a performance by Chase Soprano, a Chicago-based R&B artist/producer. Donning oversized sunglasses, a blue suit and tan Timberlands, the tall, slender Chase entered the stage in a theatrical manner, accompanied by Tiffany Monique, a ballet dancer who wore a white smock and performed pirouettes across a red lit, smoke machine hazed stage.
Chase’s first song, a opera inspired rendition of Future’s “I Woke Up in a New Bugatti,” piqued my interest, as R&B singers rarely delve into the realm of performing opera songs. Following the opera opener was an R.Kelly-inspired, yet unimaginative reggae song about a hardworking girl deserving a vacation. His final song, another R.Kelly-inspired a tale about throwing up in the bathroom at a club after drinking too much, fueled by seeing an ex in the arms of another man. I could go into the lack of creativity that goes into contemporary R&B songwriting, but I’ll save that for another post.
The Shrine’s dreadlocked host, Mr. Greenweedz, made his way to the stage after Chase. Greenweedz informed the audience of the upcoming artists due to perform, and urged the crowd to cheer for the upcoming acts, baiting them with Shrine merchandise for those who yelled the loudest. With an aim to fostering unity amongst the crowd, Greenweedz also told the audience to introduce themselves to the person standing next to them. In my case, it was one of the South American cameramen. This night at the Shrine was also simulcasted online on the club’s website, a new feature offered by the club. Wearing a black leather jacket, a retro Anaheim Angels jersey and cut-up black tights, an affable young lady served as the broadcast’s host, going around the audience interviewing the club’s patrons and letting those from home or elsewhere into another wild night at one of Chicago’s best nightspots.
The first M.C., was Adad, who characterizes himself as a flashy, yet working class rapper. Entering the stage wearing slim white jeans, a red t-shirt and a pair of brightly colored socks, Adad was accompanied by his hypeman, who belted out the hook to his opening song yet resembled and sounded like famous hypeman Fat Man Scoop otherwise. Adad, who’s opened several times at the Shrine, was given time to perform several songs including the Exile-produced Sound is God with sharp lyricism; also memorable was Live and Direct which he ended acapella, after the DJ could not play the instrumental due to the sound of the track being distorted While Adad gave a strong performance (and repeatedly urged his fellow Chicagoans to show their hometown pride), the crowd did not appear to be very receptive, possibly due to a lack of name recognition with them.
Guilty Simpson stepped to the stage shortly after Adad. Originally the headliner for this night before Raekwon was booked, Simpson performed as nothing had changed. Confident and forceful, Simpson plowed through his catalog, playing singles from Ode to the Ghetto, O.J. Simpson, Random Axe, and Dice Game. Standing out in Simpson’s set were his performances of Mic Check 313 as well as the J Dilla-produced pair Baby from The Shining album and Take Notice from Ruff Draft. Simpson also performed his title track from Ode to the Ghetto remixed over a Dilla beat as well as My Moment, also from OTTG. Simpson also touched The Hex and 4 in the Box from the first Random and announced that a second full-length collaboration with Black Milk and Sean Price was on the way.
Simpson’s cousin, Ari-Stylez, a Detroit native now living in Chicago, performed a few bass-heavy songs that were difficult to hear over the loud sound of the sound system. Both cousins rocked together throughout the latter-half of Simpson’s performance. Around 12:30, Raekwon, dressed casually in blue sweats and a wool Champion bomber, entered the stage. Performing for over an hour, Rae literally closed the club down, forcing the Shrine’s management to turn on the closing lights, an uncommon occurrence for headlining acts at the Shrine.
It was hard for Wu-fans to not be pleased by Raekwon’s performance as he ran through a cross-section of the Clan’s library, including C.R.E.A.M, Protect Ya Neck, Can it Be All So Simple and Triumph. He also performed fan favorites off of both “Purple Tapes” (Only Built for Cuban Linx I and II) with Criminology, Incarcerated Scarfaces, Rainy Dayz and Verbal Intercourse getting the most love from the crowd. The Chef shouted out (and rhymed verses from) frequent collaborators throughout the night such as frequent Wu-collaborator Ghostface Killah (who headlined the Shrine in February), Nas, Mobb Deep and Old Dirty Bastard. Raekwon even performed a spirited rendition of his classic with Outkast, Skew it on the Barb-b, with Talib Kweli offering a freestyle in place of Andre 3000 and Big Boi’s verses in the song.
Raekwon casually interacted with the crowd throughout his set and vied for the affection of one of the women in attendance- “You got a man?,” he asked her. After getting introduced to said man Rae warned the guy to hold his chick close. “You know I could have you, if I wanted,” he continued playfully to the girl, who unfortunately didn’t make the online simulcast.
Rae also spoke to the audience for the need for new leaders in the community, as well as the need for people in the crowd to get their lives together if they were not already in order and to be careful of the company they keep, as those people are a reflection on them (“You are what you eat,” Raekwon said). The Chef also put the Shrine onto one of his future projects, which is to be titled Fly International Luxurious Art. Raekwon acknowledged that he wanted to build with shoe and clothes brand FILA, who stands to benefit from his new title, but said his attempts to reach out to the shoe brand have been fruitless (“Them niggas is too cheap”).
Later acknowledging the group of heavy-drinking (and attention-seeking) Puerto Rican gentlemen standing near me – who’s shouts of “Knowledge, God!” helped Rae get a look at them – the Chef had a moment with the leader of the group (and therefor the most intoxicated), a short thirty-something with a boxer’s build who gave Raekwon his Wu-Tang truckers cap, which he kept despite it not being able to fit him (“This hat’s too small, nigga”).
With the clock approaching 2am, the closing lights came on, bringing a end to a night that neither Raekwon and the patrons of the Shine did not want to end. When the lights came on, I saw some straggling patrons. Most strikingly was a white woman in a tight, bright orange leather dress in the company of her protective boyfriend (some things look better in the dark).
A little bit earlier, while on stage, Rae ordered the light people in the Shrine to put all blue on him at a particular point of the show, one of the MC’s clearest acts of control during the evening. The crowd, likely including the bright orange girl, all obliged and kept rocking. The overall lesson was clear by the end of the night- when the Chef is in control, everything is a little bit better.