We Went There: Eric B. & Rakim at Amsterdam Bar & Hall
Seeing legends, especially ones you put on or at least in contention for your musical Mount Rushmore, is always dangerous expedition. Will the songs you’ve venerated sound as powerful live, decades after they were produced, or will it be a depressing trip with sad eyes glancing back towards glory days? But if you haven’t had a chance to see the producers of one of your favorite albums of all time, you don’t pass it up. Which is what brought me to the Amsterdam Bar & Hall on a cool spring Thursday evening to see the legendary rap duo Eric B & Rakim.
The show, which clocked in at a healthy 80+ minutes with a setlist running up on 20 songs, was neither a barnburner nor a letdown, but instead a historic act clearly leaning on their nostalgia as they played portions of a bunch of their classic songs. “My Melody,” “I Ain’t No Joke,” “Don’t Sweat the Technique,” “Microphone Fiend,” “Eric B. Is President,” and more and more. It is staggering to hear, in succession, the groundbreaking beats that Eric B crafted in the late 80s and the precision rhymes that Rakim crafted, still sounding so fresh after all of these years. It was a little disappointing hearing super cuts of some of the songs, but in retrospect I guess I’d prefer to hear 90 seconds of the amount of songs they played than hearing less. Eric B. and the backing crew were pretty subdued, but it’s also hard to shine brighter than the rap God Rakim, who commanded the stage. Funny, insightful, cool and totally in command. It was a master class on being an MC from one of the very best of all time. The set was a bit of a “greatest hits” cookie cutter, but the group did have a live painter on stage who ended up doing a portrait of Prince and they brought out a Sounds of Blackness member to kick off one of their songs, so they gave the crowd some local flavor.
Overall the show was about what you should realistically expect from a band touring behind songs recorded 30+ years ago. They still have the overwhelming talent that propelled them to write some of the best rap songs of all time was still present, but I can only imagine playing for a 3/4 full Amsterdam Bar in St. Paul doesn’t inspire you to really go above and beyond. It was a fun show, and defiantly falls in the upper portion of “legacy” shows I’ve seen over the years.
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