Lil Wayne shows a cheerful side

Lil Wayne's warm presence managed to soften even some of the hard-edged content of his raps.
Lil Wayne's warm presence managed to soften even some of the hard-edged content of his raps. (DAVID A. SMITH / Getty Images)
Posted: July 23, 2013

Save for his family and friends, few would call Lil Wayne warm and friendly.

At least not as a rapper.

Each phrase flows from him with a nasal, sinister whine. Each word comes across like a cocky, ticked-off cough. His fleeting few love songs sound more slimily salacious than sensual. He's inscrutable and irascible. Yet, when it came to Wayne's headlining set for his America's Most Wanted tour Saturday at Camden's Susquehanna Center, not only was Weezy congenial, he was downright ebullient, skateboarding across the stage, over-thanking his audience, and somehow turning his songs' coldest sentiment and terror-filled incident cheerful.

Even his rapping costars, T.I. and the notoriously hard 2 Chainz, seemed nicer. Perhaps the fact that Saturday was National Justice for Trayvon Day brought a sense of community to the event.

The only truly ominous element of the evening was the stark wall of lightning and thunder that preceded Wayne's set. Once he hit, the storm stopped and the stage was awash with dancers, skaters, pyrotechnics, and a crack band that turned even the calmest moments into something riveting.

Slow-moving cuts like "She Will" and "Trippy" cooked at a low, steamy boil with their grouchy electric guitars and wheezing organ providing a mean counterpoint to Wayne's gruff but open voice. Nobody compares to Wayne when it comes to the triple entendre, and "Tap Out" gave him ample opportunity for lusty comparisons (so did "Rich as F-," one of several frank, foul duets he shared with 2 Chainz).

"How to Love," Wayne's acoustic guitar-filled "song for the ladies," was so weirdly tender, it was nearly disarming. So, too, was his cheery, catchy rock-out closer, "No Worries." So great were Wayne's positive vibes that nobody complained when he ended his set without an encore.

Though lately he's better known for his VH1 reality show, T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle, T.I. was - and remains - the MC king of Atlanta with a slurry, singular flow that nestles handsomely into the pocket of his best material. He was all shoulders and hips as he danced on stage, moving side to side like a weird crab walk.

The hard electro-carnival bounce of "Rubberband Man" certainly qualified among his classics. His newer, more sinewy soulful lover-man material such as "Live in the Sky" and "Still Ain't Forgave Myself" were equally stirring.

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