sony x headphones vs beats A Puff Of Fresh Air Up In Smoke Tour Raising The Bar For Live Hip
It comes late in the three hour Up in Smoke show, somewhere in the middle of Dr. Dre’s closing set. First there’s fire, a couple of explosions, a bit of smoke. Then comes the skull, a 15 foot tall contraption that descends toward the front of the stage, demanding in a menacing rumble that somebody give it some dope.
The main attractions on this 45 city tour, which will stop Sunday at the Coors Light Amphitheater at Montage Mountain, Scranton, and Tuesday night at the First Union Spectrum, Philadelphia, are the multi platinum stars: Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and Eminem. With the exception of Eminem, the Detroit rapper whose album, The Marshall Mathers LP (Web/Aftermath/Interscope), sits at No. 1 for a sixth week, these guys represent hip hop’s West Coast aristocracy.
But there’s more to Up in Smoke than brand name artists. What this tour has going for it separating it from virtually every hip hop concert in the past is polish, professionalism and a talking skull that’s jonesing for the chronic. If this were a corporate seminar, you’d call it a commitment to excellence. And it’s raising the hip hop bar.
For industry watchers, this is a benchmark moment. If Up in Smoke goes off without a hitch and so far, so good it could open doors for a live genre traditionally plagued with problems. Rap tours historically have proven to be iffy affairs, hindered by dubious artistic success, erratic commercial appeal and a reputation for violence.
On opening night, June 15, outside San Diego, with Ice Cube emerging from a cryogenic chamber, Snoop and Dre hitting the stage in a hydraulically enhanced low rider and a stage design rivaling the wildest Kiss shows, all concerns were set aside. Immediately it was clear: We weren’t just straight outta Compton anymore. We were light years away.
The show starts on time. Set changes are quick and tidy. Fans get to see the performers in the spotlight no distracting posses cluttered onstage bringing chaos to the affair.
Eminem, who’s getting to perform for some of the biggest crowds of his career, is getting a kick out of just playing fan.
“Sitting back watching it, after I’m done with my set, it’s the most incredible rap show I’ve ever seen,” he says. “I don’t think there’s ever been a rap show like this.”
Up in Smoke was the brainchild of Dr. producer rapper entrepreneur who brought Eminem to the national scene. Inspired by his reunion onstage with Snoop in Hawaii last September, Dre decided to pull out the stops to promote his latest disc, 2001 (Aftermath/Interscope), released last fall.
Gathering his assorted proteges and partnering with Magic Johnson and veteran New York promoter John Scher on the business side Dre fleshed out his concept: an over the top presentation that took its cues from rock ‘n’ roll’s showbiz tradition.
“He’s mounted this tour with a very clear vision,” says Scher, best known as the man behind Woodstocks ’94 and ’99. “Believe me, this is a tour that comes at no small cost to Dre and everybody else. It’s got all the production values of a big time rock show.”
On disc, hip hop is crisp and tight. Onstage, it has often degenerated into a cluttered free for all. Compare Snoop’s Detroit performances in ’95 an ’96 events that bumbled along with little direction to his streamlined set this summer. It was community theater next to Up in Smoke’s Broadway sizzle.
The problems with hip hop concerts are well chronicled. Though the genre is more than two decades old, born at Bronx street parties as a strictly live endeavor, it has increasingly flourished in the studio an intricately rhythmic art dominated by genius producers hunkered down with digital equipment. Translating that material to the stage has been difficult, and the concerts often unwittingly prove what rap naysayers have always lamented: It sounds like a bunch of guys yelling over beats.
And then there’s that matter of rap concert safety. During the ’90s, increasing crowd violence inflated security costs and insurance premiums, leaving many established promoters the ones with the prime venues and marketing skills wary of booking rap.