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De La Soul

by Jeff Nania on December 6, 2012

UPSTATE CONCERT HALL, NOV. 23

“You all like anything that’s out now?” Trugoy asked the crowd. “I’m trying to figure if there’s anything out I should listen to.” The crowd shouted back a few names, and he agreed to a couple, but ultimately he asked, “You all like that old-school hip-hop?” The crowd went wild.

Being the night after Thanksgiving, the draw was not what it might have been—maybe people were still in turkey-induced comas. Trugoy turned to Maseo on the decks and asked, “You have a big turkey?” and he called back “Nah, I had a big chicken; turkey makes me tired.” Despite all that, De La Soul gave a solid performance that consisted mainly of classics like “Me Myself and I,” “Stakes Is High,” and other well-known favorites.

“Anyone here like J-Dilla?” Trugoy asked, as Maseo dropped the bass and they rocked “Stakes Is High.” “I say ‘vibe,’ y’all say ‘vibration.’” The response was huge and the group pointed out that, although the crowd was only a few hundred, it definitely did not lack for enthusiasm. Hip-hop fans young and old, black, white, Asian, male and female all looked to be in their glory.

Being that this is their 25th anniversary tour, suffice to say these guys have some experience. Trugoy is the oldest and is now in his 40s, but he maintains that same ease and flow that he has always had. He took a poll of the audience to see how their ages skewed. “Show of hands: who do we have here that is 35 and older?” About a third of the hands went up. “25 to 35?” Another third. “All the rest of you young bucks better be jumpin up and down!”

“We been around for over 24 years,” Trugoy said, “and we are gonna continue to do our thing because we don’t need radio. We don’t need MTV. We don’t need BET.”

Hometown sensation MIRK did a set that was nearly the same length as the headliner, and that got the crowd going wild. They closed their set with an arrangement of “Ain’t No Sunshine” that featured the powerful pipes of their singer Tara Merritt. Their blend of funk, soul, hip-hop, jazz, alternative rock, and pop has always been tight since their inception, but the evolution and maturity of their sound is more apparent now than ever. Being a hip-hop show and all, frontman Josh Mirsky got to show off his able hop chops, and even saxophonist Chris Russell had plenty of space to showcase his roaring, soulful sensibilities. Mike Thornton gave his best Frampton Comes Alive impression, and even Mirsky grabbed a Telecaster for a tune. Stack the three- and four-part vocal harmonies on top of the mix and you have a very entertaining package.