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February 21, 2007
The Fusion Year of the Boar Festival that took place in Las Vegas last week will be broadcast to over 300 million households in China, as the event's emcee, Felly Fell (a Power 106 DJ in Los Angeles), kept reminding the crowd. The eclectic lineup that participated was, for the most part, up to this Herculean and high profile task, as the hip-hop-themed night lit up the Aladdin Casino's theater. This was the second night of the festival; the first featured Chinese pop and rock bands, as well as an appearance from Jackie Chan. But the Chinese New Year theme infused Valentine's night as well, from the stage design to the traditional Chinese dancing/stunt-fighting troupe that performed midway through the night.

The pre-show acts didn't exactly comprise an auspicious beginning to the show. The Lady Tigra, a cute female rapper seemingly focused on the old school, under-whelmed the crowd with her behind-the-beat rapping and support from a DJ who seemed to have just learned how to scratch. Fortunately, she only performed two songs and was supplanted on stage by Berko and his band, playing a boring fusion of reggae, '80s dance rock, and funk. Even their matching pink suits couldn't lessen the desire to see them swiftly escorted off the stage.


Girl Talk

Fortunately, Pennsylvania's mashup kingpin, Girl Talk, was up next, backed by an army of coked-up hipsters dancing like fools and parading about on the stage around him. From Beyonce to the Clipse, the Jackson 5 to Wu-Tang, Elton John to Biggie, Rob Base to Daft Punk, Girl Talk got the shit fired up. The video monitors repeatedly flashed "I'm not a DJ" as Girl Talk got busy on his laptop. No, the Pittsburgh wunderkind is not a DJ, but he nonetheless succeeded in rocking the slowly filling theater harder than many of the big-name acts to come. Cross state outfit Spank Rock followed, but their Philadelphian electro-rap definitely was not crowd-inspiring, and it was clear that most in attendance seemed to have no idea who the group was. The lukewarm reception was definitely felt onstage, as members occasionally sat down during their set. Hey, look - I know it's hard to perform when the crowd isn't feeling it, but that's no excuse to sit down. Ball up. After all, there's probably a pretty nice paycheck lined up for this appearance.


Lupe Fiasco

The rest of the night was devoted to the bigwigs. Lupe Fiasco, he of Food and Liquor and "Kick, Push" fame, delivered a spirited, old school, no-frills set with just the basics: MC, hype man, and DJ. Flying across the stage like a cyclone of energy, Fiasco blazed through selections from his debut, including "Sunshine," "Real," and "American Terrorist." When it came time for the aforementioned hit single and skater theme song, a bit of crowd participation was called for, and those in attendance happily indulged the Chicago sharpshooter. Fiasco's live set definitely infused some energy into the material from what is, in post-show hindsight, a somewhat lackluster debut album.


Gnarls Barkley

After Fiasco's crew departed, it was time for Gnarls Barkley to take the stage and they did so by storm, fulfilling and surpassing every expectation of their live show. The band showed up in Austin Powers regalia: Danger Mouse as Austin and Cee-Lo as Dr. Evil, with the rest of the band rounding out the cast. Recreating album tracks in great detail with live instruments, Danger Mouse orchestrated the affair behind a rack of keyboards, while Cee-Lo simply killed it with his pitch-perfect vocals. They ended it with the album version of "Crazy" (an "instant classic," according to Cee-Lo). This was a great surprise, as many of their televised live appearances have shown the band revamping the track to slower arrangements. There can be no question that Gnarls Barkley aren't a one-hit wonder, as they clearly have put as much thought into their live show as their debut album.


Cee-Lo

Finally, the man of the hour, year, perhaps even decade, Kanye West, ascended to the stage. If you think West can be a bit of a diva and something of an egomaniac, you're absolutely right. That being said, he's also puts on an incredible live show, supported by two backup singers, A-Trak on the turntables, and a string section. Rushing from side to side on the stage, working up a furious lather, West performed a string of hits from both his solo albums: "Diamonds of Sierra Leone," "Get 'Em High," "Gold Digger," "Slow Jams," and "Through the Wire." Near the beginning, he took a moment to point out how it was bullshit that the Dixie Chicks won the Grammy for Song of the Year instead of Gnarls Barkley, a sentiment wholeheartedly supported by the crowd (and not out of character for the perennial Grammy whiner). Later, near the end of his hour-plus set, apparently after being told that he had to end it, West copped a petulant attitude, asking A-Trak to spin songs by other artists just because he liked them (and to extend his running time). A few people began to leave at this point, but most present were happy to let Kanye go for as long as Kanye wanted to go.


Kanye West

West and company left the stage after a giant pyrotechnics display that actually set the backstage curtain on fire, a scary moment prompting flashbacks to the Great White tragedy of several years ago. The flames were put out in less than a minute, but the theater filled with an acrid smoke as it emptied of patrons. This was really the only hitch in the Fusion Year of the Boar festival. From the array of performers to the Chinese set decoration to the relatively tight times in between sets, a little bit of this lucky year seems to have rubbed off on the planning. Let's hope it all comes together again next year.

SEE ALSO: www.fusionyearoftheboar.com
SEE ALSO: www.girl-talk.net
SEE ALSO: www.lupefiasco.com
SEE ALSO: www.gnarlsbarkley.com
SEE ALSO: www.kanyewest.com

--
Jonah Flicker
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.

See other articles by Jonah Flicker.

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