Concert Review: Legends of Hip-Hop at the Wolstein Center

Salt-N-Pepa, back when they mattered
  • Salt-N-Pepa, back when they mattered

Despite the title, the Legends of Hip-Hop tour (which kicked off in Cleveland at the Wolstein Center on Friday) was anything but.

What was billed as a multi-artist spectacular headlined by the first divas of hip-hop, Salt-N-Pepa, the concert actually was little more than a bad nostalgic act that came off like a second-rate talent show. Many of the key artists who were supposed to be there — including Slick Rick, Naughty by Nature, and Biz Markie — didn't even show up.

Approximately 2,000 fans endured five short sets that felt like they’d never end. Part of the problem was the venue. It's too big big for such a sparse crowd, and a curtain that cut the arena in half made the Wolstein even more cavernous. Almost all of the energy was sucked from the stage because of this setup.

And then there was the stage itself — huge and barren, with a few cheap light rigs and three turntable stations in the the back.

You knew things were in trouble when human beatbox Doug E. Fresh spent 20 minutes yelling at the audience to wave their hands and sing along, instead of actually beatboxing. Near the end of his set, he finally threw on an Adidas jacket and did about 10 minutes of his trademark thing. It was entertaining and the one highlight of the night.

After an unnecessary set break, Whoodini came onstage and worked through their hits “Friends” and “Freaks Come Out at Night.” There was no sizzle here, and the whole thing seemed dated.

Headliners Salt-N-Pepa ran through their greatest hits (without their DJ virtuoso Spindarella, who is playing only a few dates on the tour), but they couldn't spark this sad show. Maybe time has diluted their music over the years. Whatever it is, Sandra Denton and Cheryl James weren't able to save the disastrous course of the concert.

The shout-outs to God between hits like “Shoop” and “Whatta Man” didn't help. Neither did the oldies-show tone of everything that came before. —Aaron Mendelsohn

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