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Concert Reviews:
Run-D.M.C. disappoints at DTE's old school rap show
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- The hip-hop equivalent of Don Henley's "Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac" at the DTE Energy Music Theatre was a balding 40-something man who wouldn't look out of place in an accounting firm wearing a faded Run-D.M.C. T-shirt.

There were more than a few of those at the amphitheatre Sunday, July 19, as a racially mixed, multi-generational crowd spent a night in the Old School, with Run-D.M.C. presiding over a lineup of early rap hitmakers -- Naughty By Nature, Whodini and a mash-up of the Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash's Furious Five -- who spearheaded the genre's crossover into mainstream accessibility during he 80s. It was a night for unapologetic nostalgia, and the acts gleefully, and energetically, rekindled old memories.

Except, however, for the headliners.

Run-D.M.C. has not performed much since DJ Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell's murder in 2002, and surviving members Joseph "Run" Simmons and Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels are widely reputed to not get along particularly well. The duo appeared both rusty and reticent during its nearly 65-minute set, which was run -- no pun intended -- by a chatty Simmons and marked by a distinct lack of Run-D.M.C. music.

Oh, the group -- which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Detroit rapper Eminem in 2009 -- played its songs, a random sampling of hits that included enduring rap classics such as "Rock Box," "King of Rock," "Mary, Mary," "My Adidas," "It's Like That," "It's Tricky" and "Walk This Way." But those felt shoehorned inside the schtick, which included a segment during which both members signed Simmons' hat and made a big -- and long -- show out of choosing a fan to give it to. And Jam Master Jay's son TJ, aka DJ Jam Master J'Son, took a long turntable solo that sucked even more energy out of the slapdash, disorganized set.

Simmons also explained that he'd left his Rev. Run persona at home as he spit plenty of un-preacherlike profanities, and while he made a few comments about how happy Run-D.M.C. was to be there, the MCs' visible disinterest and lack of chemistry said otherwise -- right up to the point they dropped their microphones and walked off stage without any real farewell to the crowd.

Fortunately the rest of Sunday's bill was more prepared and enthusiastic. The Sugarhill/Furious collective set a solid tone with favorites such as "The Breaks" and, of course, "Rapper's Delight." Wonder Mike Wright, paying tribute to departed members Joey Robinson and Big Big Bank Hank, even saluted Detroit as "the foundation" of hip-hop and spoke about the music's early days, "when there weren't nobody robbing each other, when there weren't nobody killing each other, and most of all when we kept our pants up!"

Whodini, whose members sounded amazed to still be at it 33 years later, followed with plenty of snappy choreography, including a bit of breakdancing, and hits of its own -- including "Friends," "One Love" and a muscular "Freaks Come Out at Night." The group was fleshed out on Sunday with Dre from Detroit's Most Wanted, and with Doc Ice from UTFO, who added that group's "Roxanne Roxanne" to the mix. Naughty By Nature, meanwhile, declared itself ready to party -- not to Wonder Mike; the group`s Anthony "Treach" Criss did let his pants droop quite a bit -- and kept the healthy but not sold-out DTE crowd on its feet for Naughty hits such as "O.P.P.," "Jamboree" and "Hip Hop Hooray," as well tributes to the late rap heroes Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. and snippets of DMX's "Up In Here," House of Pain's "Jump Around" and Biz Markie's "Just a Friend."

A party was what DJ Jazzy Jeff had in mind for his part of the show, too. But its odd positioning after Run-D.M.C.'s performance meant the turntablist played to a significantly reduced crowd that gradually drifted away during a set that showed off his skills but missed the magnetism of the night's other acts -- letting the night fizzle rather than end with a bang.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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