Wiz Khalifa rolls up, electrifies First Niagara Pavilion crowd

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There was an odd moment back in March when A$AP Rocky did a shout-out to Wiz Khalifa at Stage AE, expecting a wild response, and got precious little back.

This was coming off of Khalifa's slow turnout in December at Consol Energy Center, creating the impression that the local base for the hometown-boy-turned-LA-rap-superstar, was cooling off.

Although the First Niagara Pavilion wasn't as packed Saturday night as it was two years ago, Pittsburgh still came out strong with almost 11,000 and the atmosphere turned electric for Khalifa's Under the Influence Tour, with A$AP. As usual, they brought some rowdy young friends, including Joey BadA$$, Trinidad James (in a Polamalu jersey) and B.o.B.

The latter, having broken out of Georgia, has been as familiar to the charts as Wiz, so he's got his pop-smart side. He did "Nothin' on You," his hit with Bruno Mars, but this was more of a booming hip-hop set with tracks like "Beast Mode" and "Another Round," complete with a trip up to the lawn.

Although B.o.B. skipped "Airplanes," his DJ ended the set with a public service message: "Remember: Don't drink and drive. Smoke and fly."

A$AP Mob, led by A$AP Ferg, "held it down" for a noisy, high-energy 15 minutes before the arrival of the soft-spoken Rocky, who hit the stage explaining that he was, you know, indisposed. He pointed out his ripped shirt and "doo-rag still on," calling himself a "hot mess."

His set was a hot mess, too, kind of in a good way, starting with an intoxicating dub-style "Purple Swag" vibe. From there, he kicked it up with the Skrillex-produced banger "Wild for the Night," which he declared was "at a 8," before the Harlem rapper and his Mob powered through "Shabba," Schoolboy Q's "Hands on the Wheel," "PMF" and his calling card "[Expletive] Problems."

After a Converse commercial, DJ Bonics introduced "The Modern-Day Hippie, Prince of the City, Stoner of the Year!" and Wiz arrived in a cloud of his own smoke, the scent already prominent in the air.

His band, which he called Kush and Orange Juice, sounded bolder and funkier than we've ever heard them, and the lanky Khalifa, wearing his "BOY" cap, exuded style and his usual charismatic cool.

"I started way the [expletive] back there, on the lawn," he said.

He's come a long way, and his set has come a long way dynamically to include everything from the hard-driving "Work Hard, Play Hard," to the reggae-laced "Irie," to the rapid-fire "Let it Go," during which he raised his arms and declared "I just had a kid!"

Although a lot of these fans came around with "Black and Yellow," he still goes heavy on mixtape and non-album tracks like "Gang Bang," the frenzied "Ink My Whole Body" and the dreamy "Up." He also dug out "Say Yeah" and "This Plane" and skipped through a section that included his takes on "Molly" and "U.O.E.N.O."

He bounced back and forth between his reefer and lighter mascots on the celebratory pop of "Young, Wild, and Free" and was overrun with his own mob for "Taylor Gang."

With Wiz down to just a pair of white shorts, the show built toward a powerful climax with his four big "Rolling Papers" songs: "On My Level," "No Sleep," a confetti-filled "Black and Yellow" and a speed-up title track.

There was a time when these stages seemed a little too big for the chill Khalifa. But not anymore. For 90 minutes, he kept his intensity level high and you could feel that, in the literal sense, there's no love lost between Wiz Khalifa and Pittsburgh.

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Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2576 or on Twitter @scottmervis_pg. First Published August 4, 2013 3:15 AM


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