31 Jan, 2013

The Pharcyde at the Fox Theatre

Recently, I ventured back in time to a place where men proved their worth by how cocked their cap sat and their pants sagged; where the streets were alive with protest against shady businessmen and crooked cops, and the rule was: the brighter and bigger the clothes, the doper the bro. Twenty years after their debut, with a few bumps in the road, plenty of solid singles and quintessential nineties hip hop albums, The Pharcyde came back on stage just one half of what they once were. Fortunately, it was a very good half.

Bootie Brown and Imani, only two of the group members (the other two members, Fatlip and Slimkid3, touring separately under the name Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde), brought with them the energy of all four Thursday night at the Fox Theatre in Boulder. They introduced us to DJ Icewater, the most lackadaisical DJ of all time, but what he lacked in personality he made up with in technique. Synchronizing with the rappers in every pause, mutter, shout out, and improvisation, he formulated one of the most well timed sets I have ever seen. Accompanying the group was also Ron the keyboardist and Big Sexy the drummer adding a little more live flavor to the show. They exploded on stage like excited puppies and performed every part without missing a beat. You would not know this was a quartet had you not been previously told. Ripping off his “Cannabis Los Angeles shirt,” Imani exposed his sweaty and still very young physique and delivered each verse with impeccable swagger, vigor and timing like this was his first stop on the tour. Bootie Brown danced around the stage in the smoothest, coolest snake like undulations as if he hadn’t aged a day. Constant chants of Colorado and blazing reminded the crowd where we were and Imani, benevolent guy that he is, passed what appeared to be the fattest blunt in the world to some privileged audience member.

They performed all the favorites even inviting some lucky son of a bitch, claiming to know all the words to “Otha Fish,” to sing along beside them. He butchered it and as it is one of my favorites, I was a little bummed that I didn’t get to listen to just the duo perform. To my amusement, the guy stayed on stage for the rest of the set , continued to rap to the songs he knew, and when he didn’t, stopped to sit and drink the water bottles set aside for the group. Audience participation was a key component for The Pharcyde with Imani often demanding we tell him we wanted more. Inviting us to yell “Shit!” after “Oh” in their high speed performance of “Oh Shit!” the crowd felt more like an old friend of the group, a breathing part of The Pharcyde, rather than just an eager observer. There were even a couple of stage hoppers that were thrown off. One overzealous young man stood out in particular, making his own personal peace offering to the group and screaming the lyrics at the top of his lungs during “Pack the Pipe.”

Imani and Bootie Brown had such a prodigious vibe, moving and rapping together in complete harmony, their bond seemingly never splintered since the first time they got together. Throughout the show, old music videos played in a haunting portrayal of what once was. It was nostalgic yet sad, and I personally felt moved by the group’s performance of “Running Away” and “Passin Me By,” their two biggest hits. They went at it full speed for about an hour and came back on stage with an enthusiastic and solid encore of some of their new stuff after the crowd begged for more.

The nineties were alive and shining in their neon kicks and backwards baseball caps in Boulder Thursday night. The Pharcyde, even after two whole decades and a few absent group members, has plenty more talent and stamina left. I look forward to seeing what they bring to the table. The only thing missing, besides the other two members, was my Kangol.

Review by Sarah Gawricki.

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