Concert Reviews

Last Night ... Eyedea and Abilities, Sector 7G, Abzorbr, and Maneline @ The Marquee Theatre

Eyedea and Abilities with Sector 7G, Abzorbr, and Maneline December 3, 2007 Marquee Theatre

Independent hip-hop, like all indie music, usually falls into one of two categories: Talented, boundary-pushing, cultishly adored stalwarts occupy one corner; wanky, pretentious, self-satisfied duesh bags claim the other. Unfortunately, both were on display last night at the Marquee Theatre as Eyedea and Abilities swung through town on their “Appetite for Distraction” tour.

The show was off to a solid start as well-respected local hip-hop crew Maneline opened with a typically high-energy performance. After being joined onstage by Ichiban, MC Mane Rok informed the crowd of their participation in an upcoming documentary on the Denver hip-hop scene, the filming of which will included last night’s show as well as the trio’s brief swing through the southwest later this month. With their solid work ethic, commanding stage presence, and, most importantly, hype music, Maneline is an excellent choice to represent Denver’s hip-hop scene.

If Maneline left the crowd energized and lifted, the following act, Abzorbr, brought them crashing back down to earth. Performing a solo set that was way too heavy on cloying stage banter and embarrassing vulnerability, Kristoff Krane (Abzorbr’s MC) looked as if he would be more at home at a poetry slam than a hip-hop show. Apparently aspiring to be the hip-hop Paul Simon, Krane sampled his vocal accapellas and beats off the Djembe live from the stage, which, although great in theory, left most of the crowd in the crossed arms stance of bored impatience. Blurring the line between poetry and hip-hop has always been a characteristic of the paler shade of rap, but without any DJ or onstage support, Abzorbr robbed the music of one its most important qualities - vitality.

Sector 7G faired somewhat better, although no group whose name references The Simpsons has the right to be so dour. Looking like a skater kid gone sad, MC Impulse rapped like every verse was a cathartic release, the crowd his unwitting psychologist. And despite the angst and tumult apparent in Impulse’s lyrics and delivery, Sector 7G did a fine job reenergizing the crowd for the main event.

The artists on Rhymesayers records don’t have fans so much as disciples, and when Eyedea and Abilities took the stage, the packed house exploded. With the crowd rapping along to nearly every song – no small task given Eyedea’s dense, often double-time rhyme schemes – the Twin Cities duo ran through a blistering set pulled mostly from their excellent albums “First Born” and “E&A.” Eyedea has been a celebrated MC from some time now (he won the HBO-aired Blaze-Battle back in 2000), but the work of his turntablist/ producer partner Abilities deserves equal credit. In the grand tradition of Eric B and Rakim or even Guru and Premier, Eyedea and Abilities are a classic twosome, where the DJ and MC share equal footing. Eyedea ceded to his partner on several occasions, with Abilities delivering an amazing solo over The Roots track “In the Music,” and inviting local turntable maestro DJ Vajra onstage for a scratch session.

Still, it was the lyrical mastery of Eyedea that elicited most of the crowd’s cheers, and his skill onstage was as apparent as it is on record. Using freestyles and his dynamic voice to switch up the songs and tempos, Eyedea earned his stripes as one of the most celebrated figures on the mighty Rhymesayers roster.

In the end, Eyedea and Abilities left their lackluster openers out in the cold. Which is a great place to leave them before the next tour. - Mark Schiff