Photos by Don Lewis
SNOOP DOGG, THE GAME, BONE THUGS-N-HARMONY, BUSTA RHYMES at Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, May 21
With a mounted-police army outside and bald-headed cholos inside, the three remaining Bone brothers of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony revved it up in white Ts with images of group founder Eazy-E, dedicating the R.I.Peace hit “Tha Crossroads” to the Compton rapper. Busta Rhymes and partner Spliff followed, smoking kush and energizing the crowd with their rapid-fire rap.
The Game took the stage flamed out: red Angels cap, red bandanna around his face, red Chuck Taylors dangling from his neck, red Nike batting gloves, and a red bandanna hanging from the right side of his sagging 501s. With a grip of Bloods overflowing the boards, he tore into “Westside Story,” then wondered, “Where are all the gangbangers at?” as the Grape Street gang taking up the front row threw up their hand signs and purple bandannas. Handed a bottle and a blunt, The Game sprayed the crowd with the one and self-medicated with the other on the dead-homie tale “Start From Scratch.” He asked the crowd to light up their cell phones for all those who have passed, turning the Pond into a heavenly body. Top moment: The Game introducing his Blood-red-bedecked 2-year-old son, Harlem, for “Like Father, Like Son.” Stripping down to his tatted skin, he ended the set with “I love y’all, West Coast forever,” real flames and fireworks blasting behind.
Snoop Dogg emerged wearing a blue-bandanna suit and smoking a chronic J. With a live band and DJ Battlecat, Snoop delivered classics like “Murder Was the Case,” accompanied by a comedic live broadcast of his make-believe station, 187.4 WBALLZ, and flanked by sidekicks Bishop Don “Magic” Juan and Uncle Junebug, who can really get down. Snoop turned serious in homage to recently deceased O.G. Compton rapper Mixmaster Spade, bringing out his old partner Toddy Tee to perform the ’80s classic “Batterram,” took it back to the ’90s with old friends Bad Azz and Lady of Rage, and reunited with Dogg Pound members Daz and Kurupt on “What Would U Do?” Trying to squash old beefs, he even acknowledged Death Row, rapping with Kurupt, RBX and Lady of Rage on the classic “Stranded on Death Row.” Finally, he joined with his “best friends,” the 213 clique of Warren G. and Nate Dogg, for “So Fly.” “This is some spiritual love shit,” Snoop declared. Yes, sirrr!
AUDIOSLAVE on Hollywood Boulevard, May 18
When they teamed up in 2001, Audioslave — three dudes from Rage Against the Machine and that singer geezer from Soundgarden — promised hesher heaven: RATM’s rock-hop dynamics and milk-a-riff mastery topped with Chris Cornell’s supersexed, godlike moan.
The reality of their self-titled ’02 debut was horrible: flaccid tempos, endless Jimmy P(l)age-arisms and Cornell’s tarnished pipes, with Rage’s sociopolitical commentary bleached to a soundbite beige. Made by ex-heroes devoid of x-factors, the record was but the sum of its parts. It sold millions.
Tonight, Hollywood Boulevard is closed outside El Capitan Theater for Audioslave’s Jimmy Kimmel Live performance to launch their sophomore album, Out of Exile. Throngs mass behind barriers and line windows and rooftops, but 30 seconds into the new “Your Time Has Come,” a muted mix has doused any aura of anticipation, choking the song’s Zep-again unison riffage and pedestrian melody. Cornell, wiry and perma-tanned beneath white wife-beater, is charisma-free, his crowd interaction consisting of occasional clap-alongs or a “Get your fists in the air,” while his bandmates earnestly bob about.
With the cameras off, the band loosens up, and Cornell, laboring through laryngitis, finds his voice. The elegantly smoldering “Like a Stone” aside, Audioslave’s material resembles early-’90s Cult castoffs, so it takes Soundgarden’s “Spoonman” — lacking the original’s slinky shuffle but playing to Cornell’s strengths — to finally ignite the front rows, and RATM’s brilliantly constructed rabble-rouser “Killing in the Name,” albeit with incongruously effeminate vocals, to get micro-riots started and crowd-surfers aloft, forging some facsimile of an event.
Draped in (literally) traffic-stopping hype, Audioslave’s numbing-by-numbers rock is painfully overdressed, and trotting out their old bands’ thoroughbred tunes only underlines the creakiness of their current compositions. Fuck this shit.
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