Live Review: Eyedea & Abilities, ManeLine, Calm at Marquis Theater

Eyedea & Abilities, ManeLine, Calm Monday, August 11, 2008 Marquis Theater Better Than: Succumbing to three hours of sleep in thirty-six hours.

Due to some weird issue with cameras at the door, I had to go home and get my second-string machine and missed Isolated Generation entirely and part of Calm’s set. By the time I made it through the doors, Calm was finishing up one of its best songs, “Ginger’s Drumming With Celery Sticks.” Following that, Time performed a freestyle rap that included the words “peanut butter” and “Telemundo.” Although I was in a bitter mood because of the nonsense at the door, I had to admit that sound at the Marquis was great; Calm has rarely sounded so good. After an energetic, mesmerizing set that thrilled onlookers and included tracks such as “Walk With Me Galaxy” and “Anti-Smiles,” the crew closed with the whimsical but thought-provoking, “Lollipop Jawbreaker.”

ManeLine was up next and received an equally warm and enthusiastic response from the crowd, including a number of folks who kept word for word cadence with the group. The opening cut recalled turn-of-the-century DMX, with its thick, heavy, almost crushing beats and higher pitch percussive tones. The outfit offered up a number of other tracks, such as the uplifting “The Good Bad,” as well as the dark, socially critical “Poor Ugly People,” and brought a few guests onstage, including Ichiban, who turned in an especially impressive performance (and whose presence, we were informed, meant there were three Gemini rappers on stage). Honestly, I can’t say I was too much into the act's music, but these guys sure had a commanding presence, and it’s not hard to see why they garnered such a sizeable fan base.

Before Eyedea & Abilities appeared properly for its performance, a guy whose name I didn’t catch laid out five raps of a relentless, lyrically incisive and pungent material. Toward the end of his fifth number, he passed the mike to Eyedea & Abilities who had joined him for the last moments of his song. The duo then kicked into “Birth of a Fish” with a whirlwind of thick bass tone pushing enough air to make the paper in my hands flutter.

The act's set, which was rife with social commentary, featured tracks such as the wonderfully vitriolic “How Much Do You Pay?” with the anthemic refrain, “Make money and die that’s the American way,” followed by “Exhausted Love,” which, by the end, found Eyedea wracked with emotions and crying out “I’m exhausted.” Not surprising coming from a guy who had been rattling off lyrics all night like, “That’s what happens when you trade in all your dreams for a job.”

Although E&A haven’t released an album in four years, it did perform a new song called “Sky Diver” that had dreamy passages reminiscent of Portishead with far more aggressive beats. During the last part of the set, the guys performed “Liquid Sovereignty,” “Paradise,” and “Glass,” which centers around a notably psychedelic guitar sample. Throughout the set, I was absolutely blown away by Abilities’ knack for managing the low end textures and his complete and utter mastery of scratching technique. Even Eyedea just stood back and enjoyed the intermittent musical interludes between songs.

The show concluded with “Now," with Abilities building the sound into skull massaging crescendo before everything fell to an unbelievable silence. While perhaps these guys aren’t made for mainstream hip-hop radio, with lyrics as intelligent and insightful as Eyedea seems capable of delivering, backed by Abilities’ impressive soundscaping, Eyedea & Abilities is easily one of the best going concerns in the world of hip hop.

-- Tom Murphy

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: I’d been meaning to catch Eyedea & Abilities since hearing about the group, and the act did not disappoint. Random Detail: I ran into Malinda Herman outside on the way in along with Iuengliss who, as it turns out, is a big Eyedea & Abilities fan. By the Way: You can download five albums for free at www.dirtylaboratory.com.

This is the 38 in a series of what was supposed to be thirty consecutive shows that Tom Murphy (overachiever) planned on attending. His whole idea was to prove that there's cool stuff going on any night of the week in Denver, if you bother to make any effort whatsoever to find it. He suggested naming this series, "This Band Could Be Your Life," a fitting designation to be sure. Since there's already a similarly titled book, however, we opted to file these entries under Last Night's Show -- you know, to avoid being sued an all. (Sorry, Tom.)

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