B.o.B. has the top album on the Billboard charts right now, but even so, Lupe Fiasco remained the No. 1 star of the pair’s Steppin Laser tour, which finished strong in Seattle Friday night.
Until last week’s release of The Adventures of Bobby Ray, B.o.B, aka Bobby Ray Simmons, was an ATL-bred mixtape king. But his major-label debut is a mainstream crossover grab that seems to have worked — the uber-produced, hits-heavy album sold84,000 copies in its first week, beating out America’s sweethearts Justin Bieber and Lady Antebellum.
B.o.B.’s crowd – teenagers, mostly, chanting his name before and after openerDosage hit the stage – came for the hits, and eventually he gave them. He’s a talented MC, at his best when hypeman Playboy Tre had his back.
Halfway through his set, B.o.B. ditched Tre and brought out a band – guitar,keys, bass, and drums. They were strong on “Airplane,” “Bet IBust,” and other songs from The Adventures of….
“I’ll Be in the Sky,” a mixtape favorite, remains B.o.B.’s best song, andafter a 45-minute set he closed with “Nothing on You,” the lead singleto the nation’s No. 1 record. Overall, the set was solid, if unmemorable.
Soon, though, the crowd switched from chanting “B-O-B” to screaming “Loo-pay!!”in tribute to the night’s headliner.
Fiasco has come a long way in the past few years. Backed by a five-piece band, including a DJ on two laptops and a drummer with a kit that would have made Neil Pert jealous, he essentially debuted his upcoming album: “My record label was fucking with the release date, so I came to show you the album live,” he said. “None of these songs were singles – that’s all album filler, motherfuckers!”
His band was tour-tested – loud, confident, and tight. Their 80-minute set featured songs from 2007’s The Cool: “Streets on Fire,” “Little Weapon,” ‘Hip-hop Saved My Life,” “Go Go Gadget Flow, and “Superstar,” the obvious blueprint for B.o.B.’s hit “Nothing on You.” In between, came new songs that maximized the group’s funk-rock chops in a hard, sophisticated way.
“Kick Push,” which inspired mass synchronized hand waving, was a bona-fide hip-hop classic. By the time “Daydreamin'” came up in the first encore – the crowd chanting, “Where’s the champagne? We need champagne/ Now look as hard as you can with this blunt in your hand” – Lupe had full control of the evening.
He ended by introducing the entire tour staff – band, production dudes, merch dudes, light dudes, lingering on stage as long as the audience let him.
B.o.B. fans had nothing to be ashamed about, but Fiasco fans left with real validation. B.o.B. is right now, but Lupe’s already looking into the future.