Home / Concert Reviews / Lil Wayne w/ Rick Ross @ Marcus Amphitheater
Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011

Lil Wayne w/ Rick Ross @ Marcus Amphitheater

Aug. 9, 2011

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Lil Wayne returned from an eight-month sentence at Rikers Island late last year noticeably buffer, a good deal more clearheaded (he's reportedly quit the syrup) and eager to get back to work. For the self-proclaimed greatest rapper alive, that meant not just returning to the studio—which he did immediately—but also to the road.

No rapper of his stature has embraced touring like Wayne. While for most major rappers concerts are a means to either promote a record or to make some quick, easy cash, for Wayne touring is a calling, and one of the core foundations of his business empire. His long 2008-2009 "I Am Music" tour was the most profitable in rap history, grossing $42 million, and his current "I Am Still Music" tour is on track to take in nearly as much.

For all of Wayne's strengths as a performer—on stage he's one large, spasming muscle, all boundless energy and oddball charisma—the most endearing is the sheer joy he takes from performing. At his long concert last night at the Marcus Amphitheater, he flaunted his appreciation for the crowd, regularly reminding them "I ain't shit without you," stressing his sincerity by explaining, "I'm a 28-year-old, self-made millionaire. I can have anything I want, when I want it, so why would I lie to you?" And really, there was no doubting his affection for the audience: He proudly wore a Milwaukee T-shirt and repeatedly brandished his Green Bay Packers fandom. "I've been an avid Green Bay Packers fan since 1985," he said, and to prove it he dropped his shorts to show off a Packers tattoo.

Wayne's set touched on all corners of his discography, from his Tha Carter III hits to his Rebirth misses (which played far better live than they did on that misguided rock album), as well as his Young Money collaborations "Bedrock" and "Every Girl." He introduced that last song, a zippy sex farce, with a tearful, "I wrote this song when I was going through a difficult time" fake-out, one of several big-laugh jokes he landed beautifully. Credit, perhaps, his sobriety for his precise comic timing: As part of his probation, he's forbidden from drinking alcohol, so it's not a coincidence that this tour finds him sharper and more coherent than on recent jaunts.

At 90-plus minutes, Wayne's show would have benefited from a trim—a two-song solo showcase for backup singer Shanell in particular tested the audience's patience—but mostly the concert was pure fan service, from the three-song mini-set from the 2009 No Ceilings mixtape to the guest appearances from Birdman and Young Money protégés including Mack Maine and a white-hot Cory Gunz. At the show's end Wayne literally gave the crowd the shirt off his back—as well as both of his mismatched shoes, his drummer's drumsticks and pretty much anything else within reach he could hand out to fans.

Where Wayne toiled to win over the crowd, opener Rick Ross took the opposite approach, coasting on sheer presence. Moving about as much as a whale in an undersized tank, the gargantuan Miami rapper sent the crowd ape shit simply by being Rick Ross. Though he occasionally raised his white shirt to flash his gut for emphasis, he left the heavy lifting to his air-horn-heavy DJ and the frenzied audience, which loudly rapped all his lines with him, and often for him. The performance was a one-man spectacle, an awesome display of effortless power.
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