Headed to town in August as one of the 2014 Lollapalooza headliners, André Benjamin (André 3000) and Antwan Patton (Big Boi) continued their reunion tour Sunday at Summerfest over the course of ninety minutes at Marcus Amphitheater in Milwaukee...
Outkast's 2014 summer festival swing is arguably the most-anticipated tour of the year. Iconic rappers Big Boi and André 3000 haven't traded many verses on or off-stage with any sort of consistency for the better part of ten years, so fans of the Atlanta rap group were clamoring to see them when the duo announced their twentieth anniversary tour beginning with Coachella back in April.
But between the noted current stylistic differences between the legendary duo -- Big Boi has continued to grind-on in the Southern rap scene while Dre has focused more on select guest spots, lighter songwriting, and acting -- and the Coachella performance being called a disappointment, I was anxious to see what Sunday night's Summerfest performance at the Marcus Amphitheater would be like.
I came into the show with a completely open mind. Other friends of mine made the trip north from Chicago to catch this show because it came a month before August's Lollapalooza performance. We were also intrigued because this Summerfest show would be one of the few stops on the tour that was actually filled exclusively with Outkast fans.
The duo is playing mostly festival crowds of whoever feels like meandering over to the booming bass of their stage, but fans for the Summerfest show had to purchase tickets to see opener Gary Clark Jr., and Outkast.
The perpetually-underrated Clark Jr., was great to open the evening, but the diverse, pro-Outkast crowd was fired up from the moment "B.O.B." dropped as the opening song.
"Bombs Over Baghdad" runs at a frenetic pace to begin with and the scream of the crowd (and the abundance of smoke hitting the air) signaled that this would be an energetic show.
During the lean, hit-laden hour-and-a-half set, Outkast relied heavily on the crossover hits that made them platinum-selling superstars. They also did a great job of balancing older Outkast tracks that were heavy on bass and energy and the crowd went nuts seeing Big Boi and Dre exchange verses.
The duo started out with some ruffled edges but quickly righted the ship during "ATLiens." "Rosa Parks" and "Aquemini" were also positive spots early in the show.
Sporting a white wig, white sunglasses and a black jumpsuit that read, "Sloppy Wet Poseidon," Dre ran around the stage like a mad man as he rapped into the house camera, rapped in fan's faces and rapped laying down on top of speakers.
Patrolling more of the middle of the stage in the militaristic cadence that helped give him the nickname "General Patton," Big Boi sported an overly baggy camouflage jacket and shorts and an Atlanta Falcons hat. He came out as hungry as ever, dropping his smooth flows and sounding dangerous just by varying the annunciation of certain words and flows.
While the duo still had some choreographed bounces and mannerisms that brought them together on certain tracks, they're also very interesting to watch on-stage as individuals. Dre ran the stage with a microphone attached to a long cord that he was constantly jump-roping and throwing around as he generally acted with a certain craziness. Big Boi stayed mostly within a twenty foot radius with his cordless mic and let his flow and cadence do much of the talking.
Joined by an eight-piece backing band that included a horn section, two female back-up singers and frequent collaborator Sleepy Brown, it was fascinating to watch Dre and Big interact on stage throughout nearly the entire set with such a tremendous amount of energy. They told some stories, had some good back-and-forth exchanges of dialogue and at least got along well enough to make it seem as though this tour would be a success.
Big Boi has been touring and recording ever since Outkast "split" but André 3000 was pretty close to matching his more musically-focused counterpart. The duo still has an incredible harmonization and give-and-take on-stage and traded bombastic verses like it was nothing. Even without performing for much of the last ten years, Outkast was superior to other noted rap duos I have seen over the years like Mobb Deep, M.O.P., and even superstar duos like Jay Z and Kanye West on the "Watch The Throne" tour.
There's a reason Outkast has such a large imprint in Southern rap -- and hip-hop as a whole -- and it's because they're total pros.
When Dre left the stage to give Big Boi his three song solo, the crowd exploded for perhaps its highest moment of the night during the Purple Ribbon All-Star's cut "Kryptonite" and Big Boi seemed enamored with the crowd's show-long response.
"This has gotta be one of the loudest shows we've ever played," Big Boi exclaimed to the hyped-up crowd as he also expounded upon the group's history and the Milwaukee Brewers' unfortunate fashion choices.
When André returned to the stage for his three-song stance, the crowd energy died down a bit as he went with some songs off of the hugely-successful Love Below portion of the duo's double album from 2003. While the slower-paced "She Lives in My Lap" and "Prototype" sent people scurrying to the bathroom or to get a final beer, "Hey Ya!" -- perhaps the biggest hit of the entire '00s -- brought the crowd back to life. The old-school fans were happy when the duo returned to form on the next track as they hit on songs from their first album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.
From there, it was hit after hit as the duo closed the show with "Roses", "So Fresh, So Clean", Outkast's guest verses on the U.G.K. track, "International Player's Anthem (I Choose You)" and ending with "The Whole World."
Overall, I came away impressed by the show as did many of the people that I spoke to in the audience. If Outkast toured more than once every ten years, I can only imagine how crisp their overall sound could be, but they're so good at their craft that they were still better than ninety percent of the hip-hop shows I've seen over the last fifteen years.
This tour is just begging for an arena-ready extension in the fall but I doubt that we'll get to see Big Boi and André 3000 trade verses on-stage again anytime soon. It's a shame that this legendary group can't seem to put aside their differences for more than once every decade, but it made Sunday's show that much more special.
Outkast headlines Lollapalooza 2014 on Saturday, August 2nd at 8:15PM in Grant Park on the Samsung Galaxy stage.
- Scott Phillips
(Scott Phillips lives in Chicago and has contributed freelance writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, NBC Sports and CSN Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @phillipshoops)
"Skew It on the Bar-B"
"Da Art of Storytellin', Part 1"
"Kryptonite (I'm on It)"
"The Way You Move"
"She Lives in My Lap"
"Elevators (Me & You)"
"So Fresh, So Clean"
"International Player's Anthem (I Choose You)"
"The Whole World"