Concert review: ASAP goes down in Round 1 but gets back up

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There's not much to say about the A$AP Rocky set at Stage AE musically.

It wasn't about that. It didn't have the mood or texture of his chart-topping debut, "Long.Live.A$AP," and it wasn't much of a showcase of the Harlem MC as a rapper.

As a party scene, though, it was a memorable one Wednesday night, from the get-go, when A$AP and one of his hypemen dove into the swarming mob -- and then couldn't get out! Once the song ended, A$AP, sheathed in white, was stuck down there, bringing the show to a dead stop while security pushed and pulled, and one of his bodyguards sternly demanded everyone step back and let the man go. He finally emerged with one shoe missing and briefly disappeared offstage.

Once he found another shoe, he bounced back, Rocky Balboa style, laughing about the intensity in the sold-out room. "They told me, 'If you go to Pittsburgh, those [expletives] are too turned up out there."

A few songs in, he faced another challenge when a fight broke out in the center of the floor, sending the yellow-shirted security into a frenzy. A$AP handled it brilliantly, stopping the song and calling out a guard who was dragging away one of the fighters. "Let 'em stay," he said. "They're just kids trying to have fun." Then he pleaded, "Yo, security, nobody's hurt, everybody's OK. At an A$AP Rocky show, [stuff] like that happens all the time. They all right? Everybody OK? Ya'll ready to party like family now?"

Like a hockey game after the fight, the tension was diffused and fans were in fact ready to party like family, jumping up and down and shouting along to bangers like "[Expletive] Problem," the Skrillex-powered "Wild for the Night" and "Trilla." A$AP, who is relatively new to the live scene, hasn't worked out his set much beyond yelling about women, weed and purple drank to blown-out bombastic beats.

It was no "conscious rap" as he notes on the album, but he did stop to praise the diversity of his followers and urge that they "break the cycle" of racism.

At one point, he referenced Wiz Khalifa (to an oddly tepid response), who started out with this type of simple "put-your-hands-up!" set but has moved far beyond it as a live performer. (A$AP didn't even have a DJ working it like Bonics does.)

After about 70 minutes, A$AP brought the high-school pep rally to a rousing finish, filling the stage with girls for "Peso," the party anthem that broke him out back in 2011. It was a win-win that everyone got out in one piece, fully energized and with their shoes on.

music - musicreviews

Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576.


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