T.I. at 1STBANK Center, 12/15/12

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T.I. / KS-107.5 JINGLE JAM @ 1STBANK CENTER | 12/15/12

After a bit of a wait, the lights dimmed. Screams of delight filled the 1STBANK Center, fighting for preeminence in a veritable bass-made earthquake. A booming, overpowering voice delivered a fiery sermon as the man of the evening finally took the stage. With the audience already under his control, T.I. prowled the stage with the swagger and ferocity of a lion and announced, in a song, "I'm Back," reaffirming who is and always has been the king.

See also: - Slide show: T.I. at the 1STBANK Center - #ShitRappersSay on stage in Denver - Lupe Fiasco at City Hall, 5/17/12 - Lupe Fiasco supports Occupy Denver -- on Twitter and in person

As far is rap is concerned, T.I. has the total package: Lyrics, flow, style, production, energy, charisma and that ever-endearing drawl. On stage, he's a force of nature, and he put everything on display, exploring the gamut of hip-hop experience, from the rugged recklessness of "24's" to the freeing, impossible-not-to-dance-to "Live Your Life." He also managed the show smartly, starting with well-known anthems like "Rubberband Man" to make sure the crowd was involved, then drawing back some energy with softer joints like "Love This Life" that transitioned seamlessly into the similar but more recognizable "Whatever You Like."

T.I.'s song selection was diverse and spanned most of his ten plus year career, including several from his new album, Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head, like "Trap Back Jumpin" and "Sorry," for which T.I. allowed the recorded, disembodied voice of Andre 3000 to perform his entire rousing verse. An artist's new material never goes over as well as the old favorites in a live performance because the audience hasn't yet figured out how to react, and T.I.'s new stuff was no exception. Compared to popular rap bangers like "What You Know" and "Big Shit Poppin'," the fresh material from Tip's heavy head doesn't hold up yet, but it sounds awfully good anyway.

As the show neared its end, T.I. delivered a tender thank you to those that have continued their support of him during his legal troubles, blasted the haters and urged his fans, in words and then song, to "Live Your Life," then, perhaps in homage to how he lives his, performed "Ball," dropped his mike dramatically on the stage and peaced out.

Before T.I.'s set, Lupe Fiasco performed, and a bit of a fiasco it was. For the first half of his set, the reverb on his microphone was turned up ridiculously high. Seriously, you couldn't even understand him between songs. It sounded like he was talking through a drainpipe. For a while, the audience was less receptive to him than it was to Kirko Bangz, which should never happen.

Lupe seemed to realize that something was off the way he rejected one song for another that he knew would get a reaction, "Kick, Push," but didn't recognize what the problem was, at least until later. Despite the sound problems, Lupe performed admirably and didn't mail it in as some would. He stuck to classics like "Hip-Hop Saved My Life" and "Paris, Tokyo" with measured success until, finally, "Superstar" hit and blew the place up.

He also performed some newer material like the controversial "Bitch Bad" and even forayed into Lasers with "The Show Goes On", which, for all the criticism it draws, is an undeniably exhilarating song to see Lupe perform live. To close, Lupe acknowledged that he was a little out of place on the bill. He said he was showing respect to 107.5 for playing "Battle Scars," which he then performed to end a somewhat disappointing show, though not for a lack of effort or even probably execution on Lupe's part.

Jonn Hart opened the show with a short set that mixed R&B with rap -- you know, kind of like how Usher or Frank Ocean does, but without any sense of restraint or subtlety, Some people like it dirty, and a lot of those people were at this show.

Travis Porter followed in suit with songs about strippers and tricks being performed on dicks. He kept saying, "This one's for the ladies," but, for all three of the openers, it would have been more efficient to just say which ones were for everybody.

Kirko Bangz then delivered his take on pretty much the same material as the first two performers. At one point, he asked the venue to dim the lights so that he could "get intimate with a woman," though he didn't know who yet, which was kind of charming. He closed with his part on "Young & Gettin' It" from Meek Mill's Dreams and Nightmares.


Personal Bias: Got lots of love for Lupe and Tip. They're two of the great rap artists of the 21st century. Not so much love for the first three guys. They're boring, offensive and sound the same, except John Hart, who sounds like hundreds of other guys I don't like.

Random Detail: These were probably the best coordinated lights I've seen at a rap show. They were intense when the music climaxed, were rotated softly during the lulls and flashed at just the right moments.

By the Way: Going into Travis Porter's set, they played Chief Keef's "I Don't Like," which was interesting in light of Lupe Fiasco's beef with Keef this past summer.

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