Review: Wale at Summit Music Hall, 2/17/12


With the Summit Music Hall packed to the gills, Black Cobain was standing on stage in a blaze orange knit cap and a white t-shirt telling the crowd "everybody put your middle fingers up." To the casual passerby, it might have looked like things weren't going well, like they'd taken a turn for the worst, but just the opposite was true. Careful planning, practice and sharp execution were just as much a part of the evening as Ambition.

Any question of whether or not Wale had officially climbed to the upper echelons of hip-hop stardom after the praise his most recent album, Ambition, received last year can be answered after attending his live show. The Summit was packed early with a crowd that clearly didn't want to be anywhere else right but there. When BLKHRTS jumped on stage, the group raised the already palpable energy in the room up a notch and set the bar high for Black Cobain, Wale's tour mate and fellow DC-area MC.

Black Cobain met the challenge with thorough execution of his mike control duties. A crescendo of anthemic cuts off his forthcoming mixtape would drop into a quick Biggie tribute to boost crowd involvement. Then the beat cut out to draw in the audience while he ripped an acapella. Hands and smoke were filling the air when the DJ dropped the beat for Jay-Z and Kanye's "N****s in Paris," which gave way to a venue-wide rap-along. Black Cobain invited everyone to shout loud enough that Wale would hear them while he was waiting out on the bus. Everyone did their best to comply.

The crowd might've needed to shout loud enough to wake Wale up from a nap. His stop in Denver marks the last show of his Ambition tour, which started last October. With the exception of a couple weeks off at the end of December, it's been rolling ever since. That sort of schedule is sure to take its toll.

He came in over the top of the vocal track for the opening song and he had either over-cupped the mike or the levels were slightly off, but his vocals sounded a bit muffled. Whatever the situation, when "Legendary" followed, everything came together. The crowd knew the hook well enough for a solid call and response and the late-comers made feeble attempts to navigate the packed space for a better view, but only a handful of cute girls succeeded.

After a big start, Wale slowed things down a little, locking in all the ladies in with the melodic "Beautiful Bliss" and then beginning to build the energy with "90210."

"He is so fine," the lady next to me told her friend.

Wale lifted the crowd up, running through a couple of bangers that climaxed with "Chain Music," but the energy he was getting and giving could only push him so far. During an interlude, he told the crowd "I think I lost my voice or something," and proceeded to let the original track do most of the work while he led a little call and response over top. A moment to recover, though, had him ready to tear up "Chillin'," "Slight Work," and momentum built upon itself song after song until all of the sudden, standing before a sweaty, stoned mass of gyrating bodies, Wale was saying goodnight.

The wild applause gave way to a countdown from ten, and he smashed "Bait" for the encore. He'd run through almost twenty songs in less than an hour. It was 11:09 p.m. A few hardy souls tried to strike up another encore chant, but then the houselights came up, and it became clear that the show was over. The tour bus was outside, idling. It was time for Wale, and everyone else, to go home.


Personal Bias: I discovered a new appreciation for Wale after seeing how devoted a fan base he's built over the past couple years. I was kind of hating on him earlier, but I've gotta give credit where it's due: Even worn out from 5 months of touring, he still put on a good show.

Random Detail: Wale announced that he's dropping a new video on Sunday, so keep your eyes peeled.

By the way: Toward the end of the Wale's set a couple of people up on the mezzanine started launching plastic cups and ice onto the packed dancefloor below. What's the deal with that? Did you see someone you actively dislike and actually think you could bean them with the dregs of your cocktail? Or did you not get enough attention as a child? Cut that nonsense out.

Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music

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