Better than … listening to the album.
The city's been a little tense lately, honking on the freeway, power drinking, and slinking off to Best Buy to replace smashed television sets. But now that we're out of the basketball playoffs, the Pharcyde did their best to restore our “don't sweat it” mentality. The Roxy last night was packed and steamy, perfect conditions for the group to perform one of the greatest albums ever cooked from the city's time-tested recipe of women, weed and weather, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde.
The crowd was game. As J. Swift — the group's formerly drug-addled producer — plunked out the notes of the opening interlude on a keyboard, Slimkid3 and Fatlip appeared rocking back and forth in silhouette behind a projection screen. Everybody in the crowd bellowed the first “Awww, shit” in unison.
Reunion shows produce a little anxiety on the part of fans. You want your hip-hop idols to live up to the gods you thought them to be when you were in junior high. You don't want to see them out of breath, overweight, haggard. We've all seen shows like that. Shit sucks.
But less than five minutes in, it was clear that the guys were in fighting form. Slim was especially vibrant — his turn on “Otha Fish” was as sparkling and flawless as on the record.
It helps that Bizarre Ride holds up. Its seamlessness is remarkable; glistening psychedelic joint bleeds into hyperactive chant morphs into sauntering wilting-love song. By the time they reached the big, fat, loose “Soul Flower,” the crowd was getting funky and not giving a fuck. The energy onstage was too contagious not to catch.
Earlier in the day, a shadow had been cast; original members Imani and Bootie Brown posted a note on Facebook explaining they would not be involved with this show. But it didn't seem to matter to Slim, Fatlip, J. Swift and La Jay, who were clearly having a ball, bouncing around the stage and basking in the crowd's obvious adoration.
After they left for a costume change (!) and re-emerged in matching Puma tracksuits (!!) for “Return of the B-Boy,” the stage became a breaking battle. Yes, to Sugar Hill's “Apache” and Herbie Hancock's “Rockit.” We were psyched to see 40+ year-old men busting moves, not just moseying around doing a two-step. They performed the J. Dilla-remixed “She Said” and then turned the Roxy into a straight-up dance party. Tupac was on, we were sweaty and didn't care, and suddenly, we couldn't remember why we were so upset a couple days ago.
Personal bias: I wrote about Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde for our Top 20 Greatest L.A. Rap Albums of All Time.
The crowd: People who grew up with the album, though we did spot a 12-year-old.
Overheard in the crowd: “Fatlip looks like a homeless Andre 3000.”
Random notebook dump: I love when male performers incorporate costume changes into their shows.
Set list below.