The Return

outkast-coachella-650-430_0

By: Connor Lenahan

OutKast is back. You have no idea how much joy it brings me to type those three words. Last night was the first time in eight years that Andre 3000 and Big Boi performed together as OutKast. The fact it happened is alone enough to make 2014 perfect. The knowledge I am going to witness this in person reduces me to a blubbering mess. I love these guys.

The real question out of last night: Were they good?

The short answer is “yes” but there’s more to talk about.

The beginning of the show was incredible. They opened up with “B.O.B.” and “Gasoline Dreams” before running through “ATLiens,” “Skew It on the Bar-B,” and “Rosa Parks.” This was one of the happiest moments I’ve ever had from a music standpoint. After waiting as long as I have to get OutKast back, to have them throw heat from the get go was fantastic. I did notice that, seemingly, Andre’s mic was set too low for the show not just for the first few songs, but the entire set. It didn’t destroy the night, not even close, yet it was odd.

Following the quintet of fire the guys settled into the beautiful “Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 1).” Quickest way to make me cry from 3,000 miles away? Remind me about finding Sasha Thumper with a needle in her arm and a baby two months due in the back of the school.

After other classic cuts “Aquemini” and “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” it was time to split the show. OutKast’s 2003 album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was really two solo albums; one each from Andre and Antwan. Big Boi got the first chance to run through some hits. Shockingly he kicked his section off by playing “Bowtie,” one of my favorite OutKast songs. I didn’t see him play this back in September here in Boston, so knowing it was being dusted off for live shows was causing a very sleepy Connor to get very excited.

Big Boi has been heavily active over OutKast’s hiatus so I was not concerned about how he’d be on stage. I had personal experience. I knew he’d kill it. “Shutterbugg,” “Ghetto Musick,” “Tightrope,” (including a cameo from Janelle Monae), and “Kryptonite” were all terrific. Big Boi excels with high energy songs like these five. He was spectacular.

Random observation: the beat in “Shutterbugg” briefly changes to a Wu Tang Clan sample. This is one of those times where you get so happy that you start randomly punching pillows in sheer joy. Yes I’m that lonely. Judge me.

Now it was time for Andre to take the stage alone. I had been curious because he hasn’t been doing more then a guest verse every once in a while since The Love Below. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Well Andre delivered. At least to my mind. He brought out “Vibrate,” “She Lives in My Lap,” “Prototype,” and “Behold a Lady” from The Love Below before reuniting with Big Boi for “Roses.” Andre’s voice didn’t match up with the album recording, which initially confused me. It wasn’t a slight difference; this was a considerable change. Then I remembered that he tones up his voice higher on the album to notes he couldn’t hit normally and that I’m dumb. I liked the chill vibe of this portion of the night. I’ve seen some complaints about these four songs occupying too much of the set that should have been reallocated to other songs. That’s more than fair but didn’t change my opinion. I love The Love Below quite a bit, so I’m not arguing with the choices whatsoever.

What was troubling to me and others in reviews I’ve read was Andre’s attitude on stage. He wasn’t mad. He looked more disappointed. He was most likely frustrated that his microphone level was still an issue, but the crowd for the show was entirely dead. Normally when a crowd is asked to “make some noise” it’s not a legitimate request. This was bordering on a demand. Many of the Grantland writers were noting on Twitter how inconceivable it was that the crowd wouldn’t be going crazy for the duo. We were. I was. Where was the energy? Where was the love? By this time Andre looked disinterested. Let’s revisit this in a minute.

Full disclosure, I entirely checked out during the three songs with Future. I didn’t care. Yeah Future is okay and all, he’s talented, but I came for the patriarchs of the Dungeon Family, not the children. Sorry.

Now it was time to end on a strong note. “Hootie Hoo” kicked off the home stretch. Okay I’ll be the one to ask, why “Hootie Hoo” over “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” which is on the same album? Still confused about that one. I’d have figured the title track to their debut album which is celebrating it’s 20th birthday would have been a layup. I guess not. Then we righted the ship with “Elevators,” “Ms. Jackson,” “So Fresh, So Clean,” “The Way You Move,” and “Hey Ya” to hit the 1 AM curfew for the night. The guys weren’t done, as they attempted to bring out Killer Mike (my boy) for “The Whole World” (my jam) before being informed the night would have to end. I’m fairly mad that Future wasn’t cut off sooner to allow for the hilariously fantastic Killer Mike to join in on the fun.

With “Hey Ya” Andre looked completely checked out. I’ve watched clips of him performing it back in 2004 on awards shows and in concerts and he looks sick of it. “And now, for the millionth time, ‘Hey Ya’ goddamnit.” That’s a verbatim quote from an MTV performance of the song. I am throughly convinced he hates “Hey Ya,” and I’m finding it hard to fault him for that. Think, wouldn’t you get sick of “Hey Ya” if you were asked to perform it every second of the day for close to a decade? Me too.

Andre looked uncomfortable at the end of the night. This made sense to me. This comparison will make no sense, but it’s what came to my mind. Every time I begin rehabbing from a broken leg the first time I start standing on it is weird beyond description. It’s, somehow, possible to forget the mechanics of walking. Similarly, it’s possible to forget how to be in front of thousands of people. I’m not in the camp of “Andre is pissed” but rather in the “Give him time” corner. He’s not quite back yet. That’s okay. I wasn’t sprinting in September, but I am in April. Patience is the key. The more they play, the better he will feel. Trust me.

Was this a perfect show? No. That said, it was going to be quite literally impossible to have a perfect show. My hopes were in a separate, unexplored galaxy for this show. Were they met? No. Was it close? Closer than you may think. The only changes I’d make are minor. Cut Future. Include “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.” Turn Andre’s mic up. Get a better crowd. All are very easily done.

That all said, I loved this show. I not only loved the performance, but the obvious meaning behind it. It’s not just that OutKast came back and sounded great, it’s that they aren’t done. They’re playing more shows. They’re going to be a part of music in 2014. Do you realize how much of a blessing this is? As Andrew Sharp of Grantland tweeted “Even a random OutKast song is better than like 90% of all rap songs.” It’s true. We have two geniuses returning to the stage. This is a blessing. Let’s watch them work. It won’t be long before the whole world remembers that OutKast is that good.

Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a freshman at Boston University, majoring in journalism. He can be contacted at lenahan@bu.edu