Despite hype, Cudi concert lacks mojo

Last Friday, Kid Cudi, one of hip-hop’s budding stars, played at the Homecoming concert sponsored by All Campus Entertainment (ACE). The anticipation had been building ever since ACE’s announcement back in early October and only continued to climb when the tickets sold out by 4 p.m. on the first official day of sales. The Kid Cudi fervor spread as students scalped tickets for as much as $100 expecting the concert of their Williams career.

After the Towne Field House opened its doors at 7 p.m., opening bands Wallpaper and Chip Tha Ripper performed before Kid Cudi finally emerged nearly three hours later. Wallpaper came on stage and won the crowd over with its uptempo beats and stage presence. As the duo finished its set, more students trickled in through the heavily guarded entrance. Chip Tha Ripper took the stage half an hour later, but his performance failed to ellicit a response from the audience. During his set, most people could be found talking to alumni and friends while waiting for the main event. The agony was short-lived as his set was barely 20 minutes long. During the time between Chip Tha Ripper and Kid Cudi, the doors burst forth with people anxious to see the main act.

As the lights dimmed, screaming immediately ensued. The crowd, fraught with excitement, strained its eyes in the darkness searching for Cudi. The lights flashed and he emerged on stage as “Already Home” by Jay-Z played in the background. Somehow the crowd managed to scream even louder than before, lurching forward in a desperate attempt to get closer to him. The song cut and as Cudi began addressing the crowd, the stage suddenly seemed bare. The only other person on stage was his DJ, relegated to the back and pushed as far upstage as possible, as if to signify that Cudi was a one-man show. Shrouded in darkness, the DJ spun in silence while Cudi tried his best to keep the crowd entertained.

About ten minutes into the performance, the audience realized something was amiss with Cudi’s set. The energy dwindled as Cudi played songs from his new album Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager, released yesterday. Abruptly, Cudi paused in the middle of his set to ask the crowd for permission to continue playing songs from Man on the Moon II. A resounding cheer from the majority of the crowd cut through Cudi’s plea, while others decided that it was best to cut their losses early and leave.

As he continued to perform his new material, his energy also began to slowly fade as though he realized the crowd was not as appreciative of his new work as they were of his old hits, such as “Up, Up and Away” and “Soundtrack 2 My Life.” Slow songs like “Marijuana” and “Revofev” were great but were followed up by an onslaught of similarly paced songs, subduing the crowd rather than energizing it. Several times throughout his performance, Cudi found it necessary to go talk to the DJ, involuntarily acknowledging the crowd’s disapproval of the continuous onslaught of slow jams pouring through the speakers. After a while, he consented to popular demand and began performing songs from his previous album. Surprisingly, however, the songs played were not only instrumental tracks but the actual recordings. This was immediately apparent when Cudi repeatedly pulled the microphone away from his face but the vocals continued to play in the background; meanwhile, the audience tried fruitlessly to yell the lyrics loud enough to be heard.

Kid Cudi’s concert was a success in that ACE brought an emerging artist from the hip-hop scene, one with whom many are familiar. However, the event failed to live up to the high expectations set for the largest concert of the year. Instead Kid Cudi proved to be an iPod incarnate. He played terrific songs including, “My World,” “Mojo So Dope,” and “Mr. Rager,” – songs that the crowd went wild for – but simply rapping on stage could not make it a concert.

Throughout Cudi’s set, I could not help but reminisce about The Roots’ performance at the 2009 Spring Fling. Although there were major differences between the two acts – live instrumentation versus recorded music, one man versus six – Kid Cudi could have stepped it up. Toward the end of the concert he jumped into the crowd, expecting his audience to be more entertained by his celebrity status than by his actual performance.

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