Wiz Khalifa’s landing at the Pearl Street Night Club in Northampton on Friday was greeted by an excited audience of unanticipated proportions.
The rapper was pleased with the turnout and enjoyed interacting with them after the show, saying, “The crowd was crazy. Some people were acting wild, but it was fun. There were a lot of people there. I didn’t expect such a crowd.”
The doors opened at 8 p.m., but the lines didn’t begin to get long until an hour later.
Opening act and novice rap artist Hendersin took the stage at 9:15 to a welcoming reaction from the audience. With much enthusiasm, the new hip-hopper from Greenfield, Mass., willed the crowd to wave their hands and recite his choruses to a backdrop of bass-heavy beats, performing in his biggest show to date.
But after a handful of unmemorable songs, Hendersin sensed it was time to bow out, when an encouragement to “jump” fell on deaf ears and attempts to bring attention to one ‘DJ Q’ left listeners asking, “DJ who?”
Fans remained lively following the opener’s departure. College students continued to fill the venue and some zealous fans took to early crowd-surfing amidst the sea of fitted caps.
A 25-minute interlude featured a girl behind the ones-and-twos, pumping out Southern-style beats. She adjusted her levels and periodically shouted into the microphone until she surprised audience members by declaring her other talent as an emcee. Channeling her inner MC Lyte and Roxanne Shante, the deceiving deejay known as Jasmine spun together some well-rehearsed rhymes that helped quell the crowd’s eagerness.
A rough-stepping Yelawolf then pawed onto the stage, looking as much like a skateboarding protégé as an accomplished underground mic-grabber. With a black tank-top and matching beanie with the white letters “Ghetto” spelled out (implicitly inspired by Chad Muzik), the gritty Alabama native’s brash flow and rugged-demeanor excited the crowd, at least for a short time.
“Good to Go” led off a set of hyperized rhythms and alliterated lingo. Yelawolf sped through his verses with a syllabic style, so quickly at times it seemed like he couldn’t keep up with himself, until breaking into a hook that was reminiscent of Kid Rock.
One excited young girl breached the stage, flailing wildly in some excited dance, cuing the rapper to unveil his drooping mohawk and begin head-banging. This made way for almost two dozen other girls to jump on-stage and let loose themselves.
After one song, Yelawolf ordered the lively girls to leave the stage and played his most popular hit “Mixin’ up the Medicine,” a collaboration with the well-known but absent Juelz Santana. With the girls off-stage and the main performer still looming, the crowd began losing its enthusiasm.
The unabashed vocalist began a profane chant inciting audience members to flip the bird, and then partook in a duet with the aforementioned Jasmine entitled “Lick My Cat.” At this point, he all but lost his listeners, and after a total of about 20 minutes on-stage, the crowd began chanting for the main bill.
Jasmine did well to regain the restless spectators behind the turntables, spinning retro hits to a resplendent response from a recently reticent residence, until Wiz Khalifa donned the stage at 11 p.m., appropriately wearing sunglasses and his trademark pirate-logo chain.
He jumped right into his set list with the introduction to his “Burn After Rolling” mixtape, followed by a brief introduction of fellow emcee Kev Da Hustla. Shedding the glasses, the Wiz’s eyes were distinctively “low,” chuckling his way right back into the music with the song “On tha Pill.”
This song, featuring a chopped-and-screwed hook about a sensuous sexual fling and a slowed-down beat with dragging lyrics, didn’t react well with the crowd. Additional commentary on his unflattering intimate prowess in an acapella freestyle that followed also fell flat.
This then led to some awkward singing. Without wishing to hear his ambitious melodies, the Wiz’s ineptitude was exposed from behind the curtain of auto-tune, identifying him as a very ordinary singer. The hooks he sang were anything but magical, leading one to imagine it likely that he wrote them amidst a cloud of emerald green smoke.
Yet, at the sound of fan-favorite songs “The Thrill” and “Say Yeah,” the crowd jumped right back aboard the Khalifa plane and energy began to take off once again. The performers grabbed white towels and spun them overhead like a helicopter, simulating fans at their local Steelers games. “Won’t Land” and “Shame” kept audience members feeling great as Khalifa slid into his “ATL freestyle.”
The intricately produced beats offering techno-sounds and upbeat rhythms certainly trumped the slower, more deliberately paced sound-scapes that the Wiz performed to. Whereas the slow-as-molasses song “Material” offered a glimpse into just why he wore those sunglasses at the beginning of the show, the song “Ink My Whole Body” was buzzworthy, to say the least.
The alarmingly gaunt Khalifa removed his white t-shirt, exposing a work of art (or artists, I should say) and wooing the lucky women standing in the front rows. The Wiz’s ensuing songs “Chewy” and “Studio Love,” whose lyrics are somewhat of an exposé, elicited ladies at the wings of the stage to admire his tattoos with their hands while he repeated a thrusting motion that could be only loosely described as a dance move.
Following the song “Sky High,” determined to elevate his energy to full throttle, young Khalifa put his game-face on in the song, “Go Hard or Go Home.” The Wiz sprung to the proscenium with his second wind, only to realize half-way through the song that he might be out of gas. Wiping the sweat from his face at the song’s end, he landed himself wheels down next to the deejay and announced his next song as his send-off. Arms spread, the rapper broke into “This Plane,” to what might have been his warmest reaction.
Just like that, his performance trailed off, giving his fans a first-class experience that was pleasant, but nothing spectacular.
An appreciative Wiz Khalifa exited the stage gracefully. He grabbed his belongings and made way to his next destination, Syracuse, N.Y. Khalifa hopes to continue his “Deal or No Deal Tour” success when he travels down south for the month of April before heading west to California in May.
Dan Gigliotti can be reached at email@example.com.