Thursday, March 02, 2006

Quick Review: Dave Chapelle’s Block Party

A couple weeks ago, I sifted through my email until something caught my eye and shot me with a bolt.  Dave Chappelle at Verizon Wireless!  Onsale now!  No-brainer.  To this day, I’m still kicking myself for passing up an opportunity to see him locally two years ago over newlywed-induced finacial woes.  Besides, this show was only a week away and as far as I knew, tickets had been on sale since Saturday.  I jumped in, grabbed 4, and happily strolled in 7 days later.  

The most fitting part of the “Block Party” name was the line to get in the doors, so long it took most people 45 minutes to get past security.  Not being a big line person myself, I pulled my crew to a second story bar to watch the line crawl from above with seats and drinks.  We hashed over what might come, with my betting on 20 minutes of Talib Kweli followed by 30 minutes of Erykah Badu and finally a 90 minute Dave Chapelle show.  WRONG.

If I had a beef with what was a very grounded and strong show, it was the very misleading notion that this was a Dave Chapelle show.  It wasn’t.  It was a 2-part concert MC’ed by Chapelle.  This was unfortunate in the “I thought the grey poupun was butterscotch” sense; easily more than half of the audience was made up of people that planned on putting up with a couple of openers to get to Mr. I’m James Brown.  Instead, they rapidly discovered that they were only getting sprinkles of Dave and then heavy doses of music they were mostly oblivious to.  I would have to think that the dazed and confused crowd didn’t thrill the artists (including Mos Def) either.  Comments from the stage about the number of white people in the crowd somewhat confirmed that, and it can quickly become an annoying cliché.  Badu was particularly obnoxious in this respect by “observing” how scared/intimidated the white audience members were during her ultra-mellow set.  Sure.  More likely it was an indication of the artists’ discomfort with an audience so departed from their norm.  Unfortunate, in any case.

And unfortunate may be the best way to sum up what was a truly impressive undertaking by Chappelle and his friends.  My impression is that Dave Chappelle walked away from his white-hot show and Comedy Central’s $50 million dollars because he was conflicted between his show’s message, his celebrity, and the Islamic socialistic values he wishes to follow.  This concert was a far more substantial piece of entertainment than any sketch or stand up routine, but it was not what the audience was led to believe it was going to be.  It’s a pity that such a strong show may have been underappreciated because of that.    


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