If you believe rapper Mickey Avalon’s lyrics, he’s the perfect man, the perfect lover and the perfect poster child for that particular hybrid of classy and trashy that so perfectly characterizes the Los Angeles club scene. Nothing illustrates this dichotomy better than Avalon’s performance at Extravaganza 2007. Accompanied by his trusty sidekicks Andre Legacy and Dirt Nasty, as well as two half-naked, gyrating goddesses who joined Avalon onstage for most of his set, the self-proclaimed “Mr. Right,” performed a well-rounded set of hits from his self-titled album as well as a few new songs of his own and off of Legacy’s new release.
The set started off with the hard-rock hip hop anthem “Roll The Dice,” most of which Avalon performed sitting down on his bus stop-esque set. From there, Avalon progressed to dynamic performances of “Waiting To Die,” “Mr. Right,” a new song entitled “Make Love,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Jane Fonda” and “So Rich, So Pretty,” among other things. Warning the crowd that he had just gotten out of the hospital that morning after some sort of operation on his leg, and making it clear that “I’m usually not even awake at this time,” Avalon was clearly worried that he might not be entirely up to par. And sure, he seemed a little awkward and slightly less-than-comfortable onstage at certain points during the set – particularly when he was accompanied by other performers who did indeed seem much more vivacious than the usually energetic Avalon.
Despite his physical problems however, Avalon was more than capable of capturing the crowd’s attention and holding it as tightly as he gripped the outstretched thigh of his dancer during one particularly porn-inspired moment. Doing everything from pole dancing to Frisbee tossing during his set, Avalon made it clear that he is the consummate performer, no matter how much he may have been hurting. And, the crowd responded in kind. Girls were kissing, tops were being unbuttoned and the general mood was raucous, rowdy and a little bit raunchy – just the way a Mickey Avalon concert should be. With an encore featuring the witty ode to male one-upmanship, “My Dick,” Avalon left the crowd more sure than ever that when it comes to booking a lineup for Extravaganza, A.S. Program Board got at least one artist right – “Mr. Right.”
Ben Kweller found himself between “a street walker sending cock for rock” and a southern rap “King” last Sunday at Extravaganza 2007. His spot in the day’s lineup, sandwiched between the diametrically opposed hip hop opposites Mickey Avalon and T.I., robbed much of his alt-rock thunder as well as the audience’s attention. Strong numbers like “Wasted and Ready” fell upon the deaf ears and sunburned backs of students leaving Harder Stadium in order to, ironically, get more wasted and kill some time before T.I. got onstage.
That was a shame, because Kweller exhibited genuine energy throughout his eclectic and upbeat set. His songs passed through every colorful point of the modern rock spectrum. Many of them, such as “Penny on the Train Track,” showcased a sunny and relaxing pop earnestness perfectly suited to his late afternoon timeslot. Some songs were positively folksy yet enjoyable. However, others mulled around in a garage-rock haze that sounded like watered-down Weezer, circa ’94.
In the end, Kweller served as a necessary respite between two very different rap sets. His combination of mellow and manic seemed to please the Kweller faithful dancing in small groups away from the stage as well as those drowsing or playing Frisbee in the sun. But, as the old showbiz saying goes, a drunken white rapper from Hollywood is always a hard act to follow. Ben just couldn’t seem to move the crowd like Mickey Avalon did. Maybe he could hire a couple of coked-up strippers as background dancers to compete with Avalon? I don’t know, just a thought.
T.I., the “King of the South,” announced his arrival at Extravaganza 2007 with a recording of a gun cocking and firing. The irritating “Chk-chk, BOOM” echoed many times in Harder Stadium, signaling the end of a song, and the gangsta bravado would become increasingly ill-timed and out of place. The charismatic performer breezed through a pre-canned song routine that was more like a medley of his greatest hits than organic song-making. At first, the enthusiastic crowd didn’t seem to care when T.I rapped over less than a minute of his collection of mainstream hits. But after a while, even the most intoxicated audience members became irritated as he interrupted himself again and again. Though T.I. is an exciting performer, he was content to quote himself rather than put on a real show.
The rapper from Atlanta, GA looked small in person, but his stage presence was magnetic, perfect for a stadium venue. Working the arena like a seasoned expert, T.I. delivered his trademark sing-song Atlanta rap, hollering at the crowd and smacking his chest with intensity. However, many of his beats had the same groove, and without any real lyrical substance, he began to sound repetitive. The only song that stood out as particularly unique was “Why You Wanna,” which samples beats from Q-Tip.
Perhaps attempting to combat the stereotype that Southern rap is all cars, money and women, T.I. injected some meaning into his set by dedicating a song to the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting. Unfortunately, the piece didn’t seem earnest, since it was only a minute long and punctuated by a drunken girl screaming “eeeeeee!” over the prerecorded beats. It ended cringingly with the same recording of a gun cocking and firing. Bad timing, dude. This tribute was followed by relentless self-promotion for his upcoming album, and some new song excerpts, which were again cut short, leaving everyone frustrated. T.I. got the crowd all pumped up, but in the end, they had nowhere to go.