Concert Review: Snoop Dogg Live at The Venue - Thursday, 5/24/12 (Horseshoe Casino, Hammond, IN)

Concert Review: Snoop Dogg Live at The Venue - Thursday, 5/24/12 (Horseshoe Casino, Hammond, IN)

Fresh off throwing out the first pitch at U.S. Cellular Field before Thursday's Twins-White Sox game, Snoop Dogg arrived in "the region" for a show at The Venue in Hammond, Indiana. 

The thing I find so interesting about Snoop is the fact that he doesn't need to be touring.  He's got endorsements.  He's had reality shows.  He weathered the No Limit storm.  He's basically become his own brand.

At one point Thursday night, I'm pretty sure I counted eighteen people on stage (one shy of the 2012 high set in May by George Clinton).  Thursday's show looked to be probably sixty or seventy percent full so touring with that many people it has got to be hard to turn a major profit.  Credit Snoop for keeping these tickets affordable.

It's clear that Snoop has a real passion for his art and it showed not just in Thursday's live show (which over the course of sixty five minutes was not only consistently entertaining but musically solid) but also in his recent output.  In the last five years alone, he's released three official albums (with a fourth, Reincarnated, forthcoming) not to mention a variety of compilations, mixtapes and guest appearances with a number of artists ranging anywhere from Katy Perry to Tech N9ne capping the busiest and most productive five year stretch of his career.  While he's arguably the face of nineties gangsta rap, it's clear that Snoop remains fueled creatively.

And the coolest part about catching Snoop in concert is the fact that he performs with a live band.  Again, it would be very easy to spare that touring expense but performing with a band lends an element of spontaneity and energy that just can't be duplicated by simply rapping over a series of pre-recorded beats.  And make no mistake, there were people onstage spinning.  But they meshed with the band nicely.

Thursday night in Hammond, Snoop's band consisted of one DJ and two keyboard players as well as live players on both bass guitar and drums.  Rounding out the stage ensemble was someone in a novelty dog costume (who at different points during the show brandished everything from oversized novelty joints to a gigantic phallic object), three scantily clad female dancers, several others on the mic and of course Snoop's Uncle Junebug (who, might I add, may hold the best gig in live music as he basically wanders aimlessly around the stage drinking, smoking and nodding his head at attractive concertgoers he sees sitting close.  He was eventually led offstage, towel draped across the shoulders in a fashion I think would've made James Brown proud.  Hey, someone has to do it).

Snoop (clad in a vintage White Sox jacket as well as the Sox jersey he sported earlier in the night before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at U.S. Celluar Field) performed hits across his once unthinkable twenty year career delving especially deep into his 1993 solo debut Doggystyle.  "Tha Shiznit" and "G-Funk" both came early (the latter featuring a cameo by The Lady of Rage herself Robin Allen preceding a performance of her 1994 hit "Afro Puffs").  But the crowd went craziest for "Who am I (What's My Name?)," "Gin and Juice" and "Ain't No Fun (If The Homies Can't Have None)."

And Snoop played to the crowd as well as anyone I've seen this year.  Striking a casual pose atop an amp, he serenaded the ladies of the front row with "Sensual Seduction," reaching down to sign items for fans and holding hands with them as he sang.  Following that, Snoop requested a moment of silence for "this small chronic break" before teaming up with the aforementioned Rage.

Throughout the hour set, Snoop reminded fans just how many hits he's had dabbling briefly in his portion of Dr. Dre collaborations like "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang" and "The Next Episode."  "P.I.M.P.," "Snoop's Upside Ya Head," "Young, Wild and Free" and "Drop it Like it's Hot" all followed.  But it was "Drop it Like it's Hot" that took best in show.  The Neptunes production values combined with the live keyboards to really steal the show musically.  The keyboards just sounded fantastic and the song had a swagger.

When all was said and done Thursday night, as Snoop left the stage and fans filed out of The Venue, it was fitting that George Clinton's "Atomic Dog" blared over the house speakers.  George basically invented P-funk.  Snoop was right there for the dawn of the G-funk era.  Plus, Snoop has always been smart enough to surround himself with talented people:  Clinton and Bootsy Collins, Dr. Dre or Charlie Wilson... the list goes on.  For that matter, Clinton collaborations with an array of rappers (including Snoop) in the nineties basically helped to lend a sense of credibility to a then still very new musical genre.  And now, some twenty years later, in terms of total number of people onstage and shear terms of outrageous spectacle and extravagance, Snoop might just be the closest thing to Clinton currently touring.

To quote Professor Moptop himself (Greg Alexander, once again my concertgoing compatriate on this evening), "Nothing but fun at a Snoop show.  He just has that 'It' factor.  It's undeniable."  Elvis had it.  Sinatra had it.  Timberlake has it.  George Clinton has it.  And like him or not, Snoop Dogg has it too.  Whether lyrics about "b-tches and ho's" are your thing or not is irrelevant when dealing with such a level of charisma.  Like any truly great rock star, there's an undescribable air of unpredictability that surrounds Snoop Dogg and it lends itself well to the live concert setting.

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