Three days after he was presented with the Left Field trophy at the MTVu Woodie Awards in New York City, Tech N9ne showcased his left-of-center world view at the Independence Events Center.
The acknowledgment suits the Kansas City-based star. His innovative music blurs the line between hip-hop and rock. His complex persona is equal parts tortured artist and boorish hooligan. The award from the music television network also serves as a reminder that while Tech N9ne is a local hero, he's also a player on the international scene.
Approximately 3,000 new and longtime fans witnessed Tech N9ne headline a fast-paced spectacle Saturday that fell just short of four hours. Many of elements of Tech N9ne's performance have never been better.
His theatrical sensibility was enhanced by the large stage of the Independence Events Center. Given the additional space to move freely, Tech N9ne's impressive choreography was finally fully realized. The sound field was also remarkably rich and clean by the dubious standards of sports arenas. The temperature was another matter. It was so frigid inside the hockey arena that the hoodies sold at the merchandise booth were exceptionally hot commodities.
The concert marked the final date of a tour in support of Tech N9ne's gloomy K.O.D. album. Presenting himself as the "King of Darkness" on an elaborate graveyard-themed set, Tech N9ne's renditions of despairing material like "Leave Me Alone" and "Anxiety" were entirely convincing. Tech N9ne's fans, however, were on hand for a party. Celebratory anthems like "Caribou Lou" and "Riot Maker" didn't disappoint them. Several familiar favorites, including "Bout Ta Bubble," were given startlingly fresh arrangements.
Tech N9ne proteges Krizz Kaliko and Kutt Calhoun enjoy increasingly prominent roles with each new tour. Calhoun's turn in the spotlight was solid, but the evening's highlight was a rendition of Kaliko's "Misunderstood." The song is Kansas City's answer to the Gnarls Barkley hit "Crazy." Big Scoob, another Tech N9ne affiliate, scored with "Salue." Many fans seemed to take the song's exhortation of "let's get drunk" all too literally.
An unhealthy preoccupation with controlled substances aside, the presence of a film crew provided the evening's most unwelcome distraction. A poorly plotted encore and an awkward segment in which Tech N9ne played to the cameras were ill-conceived. Otherwise, Saturday's show was among Tech N9ne's best.
The same can't be said of Slaughterhouse. Unlike Tech N9ne and his talented crew, the hip hop supergroup was considerably less than the sum of its parts. While it was a genuine thrill seeing Crooked I, Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz and Royce da 5'9" together on stage, their chaotic performance was baffling.
"If you're not familiar with real hip hop," Budden intoned, "You're going to get real familiar tonight."
Unfortunately, Budden's idea of "real hip hop" seemed to include complaining about misplacing his energy drink and shouting over his colleagues.
Gruff-voiced Glasses Malone fared better.
"Eazy-E started gangsta rap but I perfected it," the Californian boasted.
Rising regional artists Stevie Stone and Irv da Phenom also performed. While both were solid, neither appears ready to threaten Tech N9ne's status as "The King of Kansas City."