One of the realities of living in Los Angeles: you will see bands you love so many times that the experience can become diluted. Run the Jewels, for instance, is a band that I’ve seen live at least three times, going back a few years to their first album playing the Echoplex as part of one of Red Bull’s takeover months; I remember skipping Nils Frahm at the El Rey in order to catch it, figuring that I’d probably have a better shot of seeing (arguably) the greatest composer since Philip Glass performing in LA than I would to see Killer Mike and El-P perform their one-off team-up record live. I would subsequently see them twice at FYFs; to the best of my knowledge, Nils Frahm hasn’t set foot in this town since. Such is life.
This, I think, is why I didn’t walk out of the Shrine Auditorium feeling like I’d just been dropped from a great height into a pile of exhilaration: when you anticipate the guest spots, when you expect them to enter to “We Are The Champions” – these are all things that objectively rule, but they’re less awesome when you know they’re coming. It feels like the story here was the evolution of Jamie and Mikey’s stage act from a raw, joyous force of nature into a well-oiled, note-perfect entertainment production fine-tuned to sling the audience from peak to peak.
And good Lord are those peaks ever high. If you’ve ever heard Run the Jewels’ music but haven’t ever seen them perform live, know that they’re just as all-consumingly intense in person as they are on headphones (if not more); if you’ve seen RTJ perform before but haven’t seen them perform RTJ3 material live, know that the new stuff bangs just as hard as anything else in their catalogue (if not more). Part of it is the undeniable charisma of Killer Mike and El-P; there are few hard and fast rules in entertainment, but apparently putting a guy who once stole a track out from under peak-era Outkast on stage with a guy who held his own on the still-outrageous remix to “Huzzah” is a recipe for success. But their road crew deserves a serious amount of credit too; they drew a 5,000-strong sellout crowd to the Shrine, but the show was just as in-your-face as their show at the Echoplex.
I suspect that a good portion of that giant crowd was there for zeitgeist-related purposes; politics and the RTJ project are pretty obviously inseparable, and it doesn’t seem unfair to assume that a considerable amount of the night’s infectious energy was rooted in wondering what they had to say about the new administration’s latest debacle(s). I have no idea how the show came off to people with expectations like that; RTJ’s show sure felt #contemporary, but the night was about their music, not the world outside of the venue’s doors. I can’t imagine that they left disappointed, though. It’s a hell of a show.
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