Wiz Khalifa brings charisma to smoky Consol

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The proclamation of Wiz Khalifa Day in Pittsburgh brought out some haters in the comments sections and talk shows, but it was all love in the house on Wiz Khalifa Night.

The Pittsburgh rap star and his Taylor Gang rolled up on Consol Energy Center Wednesday with the 2050 Tour, timed with the release of "O.N.I.F.C." and named for a high so strong it pushes you four decades into the future.

Fittingly, there was a smoke cloud over the floor so thick it may or may not clear out for the Christian concert this weekend or by the time the Penguins come around again. When there's no aisle on the floor for security access, people are gonna burn papers, as Wiz would say. So, moms and dads, if your kids came home smelling like weed or raiding the kitchen for Twinkies, it may have been a contact high.

One thing we learned is that Wiz is more popular when he joins forces with Mac Miller as he did this summer at the sold-out First Niagara Pavilion. Consol was half empty but the energy was full-on for the hometown boy.

Before he arrived, the crowd got Taylored by Berner, Lola Monroe, Chevy Woods and Juicy J. Wiz hypeman Woods, in a Ryan Clark jersey, represented Hazelwood proudly and kept the crowd bouncing with a solid set.

Juicy, from the Oscar-winning Three 6 Mafia ("Hustle and Flow"), was a nut with his rowdy club vibe and raunchy sexual rhymes. He had the stage filled with young ladies (who were asked to pull up their shirts but wouldn't) as he slammed through "Bandz A Make Her Dance" and other familiar favorites. When he sent them off to do "Drugged Out," he told them, "After the show, Juicy J's tour bus." You didn't want your daughter anywhere near there.

Just after 9:30, the long, wiry Khalifa pounced on stage all in black, with white Converse, his "DOPE" hat and a Bettis '90s throwback. Rather than building up to it, he hit push to start right away, opening with fight song "Black and Yellow."

True to form, he hit the mixtape stuff hard starting with "Phone Numbers" and filled the stage with Taylors for "The Code" and "Taylor Gang," featuring a walk-on by pregnant fiancee Amber Rose and two mascots: a lighter and a joint. Later, she returned to be serenaded in the night's sweetest moment.

Behind him, he had DJ Bonics and live bass, drums and keyboards adding warmth, punch and spontaneity to the jazzy funk grooves. They mixed up the pace with such club bangers as "Bout Me" and "Initiation" and more chill songs like the dreamy "Let It Go" and "Remember You," with The Weeknd's voice piped in.

Rather than encouraging fans to remove clothing, he gave them pep talks about pursuing their dreams. "You guys pushed me to the top," he told them, and added, "I smoke weed cause I'm from Pittsburgh, I dress weird cause I'm from Pittsburgh, I talk funny cause I'm from Pittsburgh."

You could also say he works hard and plays hard cause he's from Pittsburgh. Khalifa is a charismatic character who's only gotten more dynamic and generous as he's toured the world playing to huge crowds.

He's also accumulated more hits to lay on the crowd late in the set: the tight pop of "No Sleep"; the Grammy-nominated "Young, Wild & Free," with an arm-waving sing-along; "On My Level," with a cool, moody monologue about his partying ways; and the pounding anthem "Work Hard, Play Hard."

It didn't matter though. Whether it was a mixtape classic or a popular radio hit, they were all received with the same heightened enthusiasm from his hometown Wiz Khalifa Day following.

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Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576. First Published December 13, 2012 5:00 AM


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