Fact is, he's not really much of a performer. Roaming the stage as if it's his bedroom and he's writing the rhyme as he paces, or standing still save an almost imperceptible nodding of his head, he barely acknowledges that he has an audience. Maybe he's lost in the lyrics, or maybe he's lost in the memory of the moment right before he wrote those lyrics.
It's obvious he doesn't really care what the public thinks of him. In 2004, he brushed off both Interscope and Death Row. In 2009, he was on XXL's "Freshman" cover, only to ignore the feeding schedules of increasingly hungrier, and therefore crankier, hip-hop blogs. He has a Twitter account, but will go a month without updating before firing off a round within minutes.
No, you go to a Blu show just for the sighting.So the growing crowd at the Echo last night waited while the occasionally Violent Femmes-esque punk-rapper Blackbird dully sang/screamed, "If you're with me, come on/If you're not, fuck off." They waited while artist and beatmaker Teebs played some otherworldly tracks grounded by a heart heavy with soul, and then some much messier, much less successful beats.
They got a little bored and sat down until DJ Jon Wayne started hittin' switches with Mike Jones' "Still Tippin'," which morphed into Eminem, which morphed into something akin to the soundtrack of the old Atari "Centipede" video game. And they became transfixed by Gaslamp Killer, albeit eventually more by his incredibly aerobic robotics than his beats.
But the full house waited for Blu.
Finally, he walked onstage, asked a few times that his mic be turned up, and started right in, backed by his recently added band, No York.
Now, the live band is currently top-trending in hip hop, and it sometimes works. Not last night. Blu's mic never reached a loud enough level, but that was beside the point. Hands stuffed in the pockets of his windbreaker, he stared at the ground and kicked at his set list as if at gravel, looking more like he was waiting on the bus than headlining a show. This is what a Blu performance can be like, and if you're aware of that, it's a oddly fascinating spectacle.
But the payoff is hearing his meticulously crafted lyrics and a measured flow so expertly developed it undulates. The band's energy not only overwhelmed Blu physically, it also drowned him out vocally. By mid-set, the crowd was already peeling off.