Lil Wayne exerts crowd control

Posted: December 30, 2008

Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III is one of the few albums of 2008 to be both a critical and commercial success.

The New Orleans rapper who ended up on many critics' best-of lists for the year sold more than a million copies of III in its first week of release, and went on to sell another million-plus despite the slow economy.

The so-called best rapper alive has finally arrived. On Sunday night at the multi-act Power 99 HollaDay Jam, the rabid enthusiasm of the throng gathered at the Susquehanna Bank Center proved it. Kids clung to every leap in Wayne's timbre, every manipulation of mood and meter.

Anyone who has witnessed Wayne live can tell you his voice is a virtuoso's, capable of weird, Dylan-like cragginess, Snoop Dogg's slipperiness, and Miles Davis-esque subtleties.

Wayne fronted a band (including a bassist who doubled on cello) that appeared to float in midair.

As risers lifted and dropped, the ensemble crafted propulsive sounds with diverse shadings that - despite the lousy sound mix - brought Wayne's rants and ravings alive.

While a frenetic "Got Money" allowed Wayne a shot at his quavering higher register, the slink of "Fireman" brought a rumble that was low and slow.

Though an ominous "Sky's the Limit" was sparsely arranged to show off Wayne's brand of maximal danger, a rim-shot rhythmic "La La" was the highlight, just Wayne working a beat like a speed bag.

Keyshia Cole hasn't done badly for herself in 2008. Her new album, A Different Me, debuted near the top of Billboard's album chart, and the third season of her BET reality series, The Way It Is, started in November.

On stage, the edgy Oakland, Calif., soul chanteuse moved in a slightly more dance direction than her audiences are used to. Her steps were clunky. Her background dancers were a distraction.

The beats and music seemed weirdly dated and shrill - off-kilter Minneapolis melodies matching Prince to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

But Cole's voice was impeccable, an empowered soprano silken and cutting on a macabre "duet" with the late Tupac, "Playa Cardz Right" and the creamy, cosmopolitan "I Changed My Mind."

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