K’NAAN in Chicago: Micro-Moments Create Mega Pleasure

Concerts are full of micro-moments of pleasure and excitement. And often those moments rush by us so fast we don’t even know what we felt or have time to think about why we felt so good and lifted. So let’s travel back through some of the micro-moments that made up the mega pleasure at K’NAAN’s recent show in Chicago at Metro.

Somalian-born emcee K’NAAN knows how to woo (and rock) a crowd. So what I’d like to share with you is a Live Fix enhanced version of a review I wrote for Popmatters.  As we travel through K’NAAN’s show we’ll get to see all the micro-moments that created this show filled with mega pleasure.

Backed by a live band, K’NAAN rapped his tight and worldly wise rhymes — that blend Rakim sophistication with Eminem-esque wit — before a sold out crowd at Chicago’s Metro.

Connecting With The Masses

The masses pulsed and grooved to K’NAAN’s intercontinental and multi-genre tapestry of rock and rap beats and afro-pop melodies. He took fans to higher ground with tracks from his debut album Dusty Foot Philosopher (2005) and his latest release Troubadour, one of 2009’s best and most ambitious hip hop releases. And before the concert I had the pleasure of talking with a member of the masses, Addam, who told me how he’s been to five K’NAAN shows before and loves making live concert videos.

It was great chatting with Addam as we stood at the front of the stage waiting for the show to start because, like my chat with John during Beach House, I was able to learn how K’NAAN’s live show was influencing and moving the emotions of my fellow concert fans. And as a result, I was able to relive and better understand the root of some of my favorite moments via Addams video montage.

Out And Up Came The Cellphones And Mini-Cams

In song, K’NAAN grabs hold of your heart and mind because of his gift for both being himself and the voice for his fellow countrymen in universal gems like the joyfully tragic third-world anthem “ABC’s.” And when he opened with that song, instantly, a crop of cellphones and mini-cams sprouted up in the front row to capture the moment.

He floated across the stage donned casually in a faded denim button-down shirt with dark green pants. His clothes might have been low-key and understated, but he played the tune, and wore a big fuzzy fur hat, as if he was a king honoring his people with a royal performance.

Telling the Marley Back Story of Troubadour

Taking a break in between songs, K’NAAN told the back story of Troubadour — which was recorded in the Marley’s legendary Gong studios — and explained how he heard someone playing a Bob Marley song and that helped him connect with the essence of the Gong studio.

Hearing K’NAAN explain the back story made sense and confirmed some of my Mannish Boy wonderings I’ve had because throughout the album you can hear the undeniable tribute to Marley’s reagee “One Love” vibe.

From there he traversed through the funkied and soulful “I Come Prepared” and the tweeter-rattling crunk joint “Does It Really Matter.”

K’NAAN’s intricate, journalistic rhymes and crafty punch lines uplifted, entertained and educated — and somehow he simultaneously chronicles his experiences from growing up in war-torn Somalia and sounds off on the global state of hip hop.

K’NAAN Invites Kate To Sing “Be Free”

He slowed things down during the reflective ballads “Take A Minute” and “Wavin’ Flag.” And then he invited a fan, Kate, on stage because she had beautifully covered “Be Free” — a track from his Dusty Foot Philosopher on the Road live album — on her YouTube channel.

It was definitely a moment where we saw the early stages of a fan-to-artist transformation that might grow in to something bigger for Kate, if she continues to develop her love for playing live music.

Headliners Vs. Openers

Like he usually does, K’NAAN ended his set by sharing the story of how he came to America as a young boy. And, as if we were all gathered around a campfire in the African bush, he used afro-pop accapella crooning, spoken word poetry and emcee rhyming to tell an intimate tale of joy, heartache and triumph.

Segueing us from K’NAAN to the headliner WALE was DJ Omega. He did his best trying to maintain the energy of K’NAAN’s show by playing to the heart of the Chicago crowd and mixed samples from Kanye West’s Graduation with a heavy dose of 90’s gansta g-funk.

But in the end it turned out to be a futile attempt with no fault to DJ Omega. So was it simply a case of putting the wrong guy in the headlining spot? Who knows? Either way, we should’ve ended the night with K’NAAN’s sparkling performance that was filled with class and sophisticated swagger instead of WALE’s lackluster and disappointing head-hanging set.

What’s Your Favorite Micro-Moment?

Well, I hope you enjoyed this Live Fix enhanced version of K’NAAN at Metro in Chicago. I had fun sharing it with you and thanks again to Addam, Kate and the rest of the crowd for creating so many micro-moments and mega pleasure.

Were you at the K’NAAN show?  What are some of your favorite live music micro-moments?

All photos by Colleen Catania

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