If there was a takeaway from Snoop’s Wellness Retreat, Denver’s now-annual celebration of rap and cannabis, it was this: it can be very, very hard to get people excited when they’re stoned and cold. In between songs and professions of love for Colorado weed, Snoop Dogg and opener A$AP Rocky spent the evening trying to wring some enthusiasm out of the crowd at Fiddler’s Green. Time and time again, they told fans to wave their arms, shout or sing along; the best they got was the suggestion of a wiggle or a half-hearted cheer.
Under the best circumstances, Snoop Dogg isn’t an artist with a lot of electrifying surprises in store. In the twenty years since Calvin Broadus unleashed Doggystyle on the world, his laid-back, drawling flow has changed very little, as have the West Coast street tableaus he paints with it. Instead, as he showed on Monday, he’s spent the past two decades getting very good at one thing.
Unlike last year, Snoop took the stage with a three-piece live band, and his backing crew got bigger from there. Old affiliate Kurupt and another backing singer came out for an abbreviated version of “Tha Shiznit” and stayed for the rest of the show, hyping the main act and occasionally subbing in for the late Nate Dogg on the hooks. In one of the few real surprises of the night, fellow Californian Suga Free showed up for “Why U Bullshittin?," whipping through it in staccato triple time.
It all felt rehearsed, but not badly: After twenty years, Snoop raps like he has a mental map of his songs, every little inflection and tone worked into muscle memory. When he finds something that works, he hangs on to it, down to this year’s closer, “Young, Wild and Free,” which he sang in 2014 as the crowd filed out of Red Rocks.
What has changed, and drastically, is the scene around weed since last 4/20. A year and change in, it’s lost some of its novelty, if not its appeal. Where Snoop’s first Wellness Retreat felt like a giant victory celebration for legal marijuana, this year’s just felt like a concert. A concert where a lot of people were smoking pot, yes, but people have always smoked weed at concerts, and Snoop Dogg’s brand has been married to cannabis for so long that it’s hard to envision a show with any less of it, no matter where it happens.
Still, there’s some Colorado bias in there (candidly: the bias of a reviewer who lives in Capitol Hill, and gets a whiff of ganj every time he opens his window). As A$AP Rocky reminded the crowd, out-of-towners “still gotta worry about cops messing with us every five minutes over twenties, dimes, petty shit. Y’all smoke free here.” If Snoop spends the next twenty 4/20s in Colorado, as he promised the crowd before his last number, it will be interesting to see what kind of scene he comes back to.