The man billed as "The King of Rap" was upstaged and outclassed by a relatively unheralded Kansas City-based band Tuesday at Crossroads KC.
Although most of its area gigs are in small clubs, the expansive stage at Crossroads KC suited Hearts of Darkness' thunderous grooves. The band's potent blend of African sounds and American R&B and hip hop seemed to acquire additional power at the outdoor venue's grounds. Highlighted by a five-piece horn section, Hearts of Darkness' transcendent dance music was dazzling.
Not everyone in the audience of over 2,000 appreciated the band's effort. Boos and disparaging catcalls intermingled with applause at the conclusion of the band's 75-minute performance. Impatient Snoop Dogg fans would have to wait. Snoop Dogg didn't appear until 72 minutes after Hearts of Darkness left the stage. Even worse, his set lasted slightly less than an hour.
Most fans cheered Snoop Dogg's every move, but their affection for the man certainly had more to do with his remarkable string of hits than his desultory effort Tuesday. His last few area appearances featured live instrumentation that served to greatly enhance his songs. While three alluring dancers offered visual stimulation, their presence failed to disguise the fact that Snoop Dogg was offering fans little more than glorified karaoke. An odd technical failure made matters worse. During opening song "I Wanna Rock" a bank of stage lights were twice lowered slowly but perilously, forcing Snoop Dogg to retreat to the back of the stage.
"These people paid money to see Snoop Dogg," the star said. "They don't want to see these lights."
People also paid to party to Snoop Dogg's vast catalog of hits. Beginning with the release of his profane but vastly entertaining debut album in 1993, the California-based rapper has recorded many of the most memorable celebratory anthems of the last twenty years. Even the canned and abbreviated versions of "Gin and Juice" and "Drop It Like It's Hot" heard Tuesday were rapturously received.
Snoop Dogg closed with "Who Am I (What's My Name)?" While less demanding members of the audience replied with the requisite chant of "Snoop Doggy Dog," others might understandably been inclined to answer with less flattering responses.
| Bill Brownlee, Special to The Star