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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Review: Pharrell's N.E.R.D. at House of Blues

Posted By on Thu, Mar 6, 2008 at 4:13 PM

Alright, Pharrell, we'll call a truce. But cool it with the weird stuff, huh?
I’m just as sick of Pharrell as anybody else. The neon-colored diamond chains, the bandanas over the face, the perfectly-tilted cap, the head-to-toe draping in his own clothing label. It’s not that I’m jealous—I have all that shit too, I swear. It’s just that it’s hard to be a fan of an artist who’s already the world’s biggest fan of himself (unless it’s Snoop Dogg). But you can’t really knock his producing—his and Chad Hugo’s beats made Clipse’s latest album the best rap album I heard in ’06, and probably since then. So I decided to give Pharrell, Hugo, and Shay Haley’s rock band, N.E.R.D., a chance, by showing up at their House of Blues show last night. Honestly, I went expecting to be surprised at how good the show was. And that’s basically what happened. ... First of all, including their live band, there were enough people on stage to rival an MC Hammer show. Besides the three core members (with Hugo on the keyboard), there were two drummers, a bassist, a guitarist, an unsmiling bouncer, and two hypemen—one whose primary duties seemed to be taking off Pharrell’s scarf and caring for his sweat towels. Pharrell needed the towels more than the hypemen; his energy, for a rich guy who could easily phone in a performance, was incredible. N.E.R.D. (an acronym for No one Ever Really Dies; I know, it’s annoying) is usually described as an alternative-rock band, but they’re closer to funk, borrowing from punk as much as they do hip-hop, with a few Gnarls Barkley-style ballads thrown in. OK,, it’s hard to describe, but I can attest that unlike most bands that try to totally amazingly combine different genres of music, this doesn’t sound awful, or even forced. And the band’s infectious energy had the audience erupting—chanting the band’s strange hooks, like, “All the girls standing in line for the bathroom!” and, during “Jump,” jumping for about 4 minutes straight, which is a long time to jump if you think about it. Which brings me to the aspect of the show that perhaps won me over most thoroughly. For a guy who’s earned the reputation as the cockiest man on the planet, Pharrell was surprisingly complimentary to the crowd. “I like the energy ya’ll got here,” he said between songs, “and it’s love, too. There’s no pushing going on.” Whenever somebody yelled, “Thank you!” he would retort, “No, thank you!” He later pondered aloud that “this may be the livest city in the world!” Sure, he probably tells Des Moines that, but hey, it’s true—when Cleveland gets its money’s worth at a show, you can’t beat its energy. He even noted the audience’s racial diversity. “I was told it was gonna be white people over here, black people over there,” he said, “but I’m seeing salt and pepper!” I’m not gonna run out and buy the N.E.R.D. catalogue or anything. And the next time I see a photo of Pharrell posing with an iced-out skateboard medallion, the hate might all come rushing back. But for now, all is forgiven. Anybody that can melodically croon “Now girl kiss her boobs, and you kiss her boobs too” and still seem classy is alright by me. – Gus Garcia-Roberts

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