I wasn't really sure what to expect when I went to the Majestic last night to see the Coup. For one thing, I've only been to a handful of hip hop shows. For another, I had yet to hear their new album, except for a couple of singles. Mostly, though, I didn't know who Boots would be onstage with.
Until fairly recently, the Coup was always either a trio or a duo, with rapper Boots Riley and DJ Pam the Funkstress as the two fixed members and second rapper E-Roc appearing only on the group's first two albums and a song or two after that. However, from what I recall, Pam the Funkstress left the group after their Epitaph debut Pick a Bigger Weapon. So, since Boots is the only remaining original member, I wasn't sure whether he'd be touring with a different DJ or a live band.
As it turns out, Boots has been touring with a live band since 2006. I was a little worried that Pam's funky beats would not transfer over to live instrumentation very well, but it ended up being a non-issue. The band went for a more rock-oriented sound instead, similar to that of Boots' project with Tom Morello, Street Sweeper Social Club. And as it turns out, Boots' revolutionary lyrics lend themselves very well to a rock-oriented style. The band was able to mesh with Boots' flow and lyrics a little better than a DJ might have been able to, with crescendos matching Boots' intensity and catchy choruses that really got the crowd moving. And the musicians were all very adept at what they do, as they demonstrated towards the end of the show, when each musician got a brief solo. The only issue I could find with the backing band was that they seemed a little bored whenever they weren't doing songs from the new record. I assume they had more fun playing the new material because they had a part in the songwriting process for those songs, but that's mostly speculation on my part.
Pam's departure from the Coup also left the group without a singer. This void was filled very well by Silk E, who danced and sang and added quite a bit to the show's entertainment value. Her voice was great, and she was also a little shy and modest, which was both good and bad. Her shyness kept her from acting like a diva, which is a trap many people in her position have fallen into. However, it also meant that she was overly concerned with her dance moves. There were a few times when it seemed to me like she was concentrating more on dancing than on singing, and her voice was a little less powerful as a result. Overall, though, she definitely strikes me as a positive addition to the group.
Yeah right, like I can remember the setlist. They kicked off the set with "Bullets & Love," which was the introductory song on Pick a Bigger Weapon and a great way to start the show. They also played a ton of songs from the new album. Besides that, it was a pretty good mix of songs, although they played more songs from the later albums than from their first couple. Off the top of my head, here a few standouts: "My Favorite Mutiny," "We Are the Ones," "Me and Jesus the Pimp in a '79 Granada Last Night," that song from Steal This Album with a bunch of strains of reefer in the chorus and "Sho Yo Ass."
I suppose I should mention the opener. I can't even remember his name, and his music was almost as forgettable. Not bad, just kind of bland. The only way he could get the crowd into it was by peppering in lyrics from other well-known hip hop songs into his own material, which got a little cheesy after a while.
Overall, for $15, I had a really great time. Hell, I'da paid $15 just to see those crazy sideburns.