Monday, August 11, 2003

G. Love shows special flair

By Chris Varias
The Cincinnati Enquirer

G. Love's recordings might not rank among the top rap albums of the last decade, but his live show is just about as entertaining as that of anyone in hip-hop.

The soulful rapper from Philadelphia and his two-man band, Special Sauce, rocked Bogart's the laid-back way Friday with a show that lasted more than two hours.

Hip-hop on the stage is not as good as the stereo version. Watching a DJ stand at a turntable isn't very visually stimulating. Acts like G. Love who have incorporated rock instrumentation into their performance are generally the most engaging.

That's true even though G. Love and Special Sauce didn't necessary rock or use standard rock instruments all the way through the show. But even when the approach was slow and soft - when drummer Jeffrey Clemens played with brushes, when Jimmy Prescott plucked upright bass, and when G. Love strummed an acoustic guitar - the music hit home as effectively as the hardest prerecorded beat of any random rapper who has made it to the stage in the Corryville club.

G. Love (real name Garrett Dutton) has his own sound. Beat poetry influences G. Love's flow more than the beats of a drum machine. Echoes of the Beastie Boys' live-instrumentation record Check Your Head can be detected, in the sense that G. Love is also funky. But he passes over the Beasties' driving rhythms for a more understated, organic sound.

Taking a seat most of the night, G. Love built a sort of soul-folk foundation for his different approaches to vocals. Songs like "Cold Beverage" and "Baby's Got Sauce" were laced with a continuous chain of rhymes and hip-hop wordplay. "Gimme Some Lovin'," which kicked off an hour-long encore, featured a more-structured lyrical form with G. Love in his singing voice, not in rapping mode.

The crowd's enthusiasm picked up whenever G. Love left his seat. During "Baby's Got Sauce" he stood up and paced the stage delivering rhymes, with an electric guitar hanging on his shoulder by its strap. His left hand held the microphone, his right hand made funky-white-guy signifying motions. The crowd was down with that, as G. Love might have commented.

Then he took the mic to the fretboard and used it as a slide for a tasty little blues solo, which sent the audience to another level of zaniness.

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