On Sunday night, I was subjected to one of the worst concert experiences of my life. This had little to do with headliner T.I., who beyond exceeded expectations. The reason it was an undeniable suck-fest was due to the lack of organization, the poor sound, and above else, the endless stream of mediocrity that dared to go on before a rapper of T.I.’s popularity and talent. There is an annoying opinion amongst casual concert-goers that the opening act is hardly ever worth seeing. Usually, I would argue against such ignorance, but this time I just can’t.
The first act might have been the all-time worst opening act I have ever seen. To call their performance a joke would be giving them WAY more credit than they deserve. It was a shambolic, unorganized cluster-fuck! Thankfully for them, I have no idea what their names were. They got booed offstage before I even had time to find out. People were even throwing back the free t-shirts they had been given! You know it’s bad when a room full of Canadians can’t even find it within themselves to be polite. I would feel bad for criticizing them if it wasn’t so blatantly obvious that they hadn’t prepared whatsoever. Two of the crew members were on their cell phones, while one guy, and I shit you not, was prancing around with a man-purse for no apparent reason. The “frontman” at least tried to rap, but even he couldn’t muster up anything besides half barked clichés and incessant mumbling.
Even though they were an absolute train-wreck, at least they were memorable. The next hour and forty-five minutes were pure torture in comparison! Each new rap crew was more uninspiring than the last, and it didn’t help that the sound at Olympia was so bass-driven and muffled that it sounded like a constant fart. Again, I couldn’t tell you any of their names, because again none of them were really worth remembering or stuck around long enough. The standouts within this group were one guy who wouldn’t stop barking loudly into his mic until I just had to laugh out of pure discomfort, and Peter Jackson. (Not the director of The Lord of The Rings, who did NOT make an appearance, but considering how surreal the night had already been, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he did.) Sadly, his set was ruined by brevity and awful acoustics. He would actually have been worth listening to if I could have heard a single damn word he said.
By the time T.I. showed up, I was well past the point of patience, which is too bad because he did put on a good show. Don’t get me wrong; there were cringe-worthy parts too. Like every other act, the sound did him no service. Thankfully his music is well-known, so it was at least recognizable. The set was also annoyingly short, especially considering how long I had to wait (what kind of headliner only plays for 45 minutes?!) and each song ended comically with the sound of breaking glass. It reached a point of absurdity when that idiotic sound effect punctuated T.I.’s brief political rant like a lead balloon. It made an over the top hip-hop concert even more ridiculous.
Considering that this was his first time in Montreal, T.I. made sure to play all of his hits, and appeal to the casual fans. Because I belong to that demographic, I thoroughly enjoyed his set list. “Rubber Band Man,” “Whatever You Like” and “Bring Em’ Out” all made obligatory appearances, and temporarily stifled my annoyance towards the rest of the show. I’ve always considered T.I. to be a pop-rapper. You know, the kind of artist who features on other people’s hits, but isn’t fully recognized for his own work. He had two showcase moments that made me realize that he is probably just being misused. His freestyling was outstanding, as was his natural onstage charisma. I can only hope that he finds a way to show off his skills more in the future.
As for me, I know I would be a terrible rapper. Even so, there were times when I felt that even I could have done a moderately better job than some of the opening performers. That’s kind of pathetic, coming from a gangly klutz with an overly goofy demeanor. T.I.’s talents and the comedic value were not enough to save such a disaster, but more importantly… why did that dude have a man purse?!
Written by Shawn Thicke
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Kate Erickson