CONCERT REVIEW

Riot Maker’ Tech N9ne in top form at Midland

Kansas City rapper kicks off an ambitious tour in front of a giddy — and noticeably younger — sold-out crowd.

Updated: 2012-03-26T02:38:32Z

BY BILL BROWNLEE

Special to The Star

Tech N9ne’s unlikely career continued to defy logic Saturday at the Midland theater.

The Kansas City-native’s fan base isn’t merely growing — it’s also getting younger. More than a third of the 3,000 people at Saturday’s sold-out concert were teenagers.

Audiences for popular music tend to reflect the demographics of individual artists. Yet Tech N9ne, 40, is more than twice the age of many of his most ardent admirers. The excitability of the youthful audience occasionally made the event seem like a debauched version of a performance by a teen idol.

Tech N9ne’s hometown concerts long have resembled wanton New Year’s Eve celebrations. If the current trend continues, future Tech N9ne appearances may need to feature designated children’s sections.

Tech N9ne’s appeal to teens may be partly explained by the heavy rotation the music video for his “Am I a Psycho?” is receiving on the BET cable television channel.

The song features B.o.B, one of several high-profile acts he’s collaborated with in recent years. Such savvy career moves have made Tech N9ne the region’s most commercially successful musical export of the past 20 years. His new release currently tops Billboard magazine’s independent record label album chart and resides at No. 15 on the publication’s overall album chart. This latest success enhances his status as the all-time top-selling independent artist in hip-hop.

Saturday’s performance, the first in an ambitious string of concerts that’s billed as “the longest consecutive tour in rap history,” showed Tech N9ne in top form. An uncluttered new video-enhanced set represented a significant upgrade over previous designs. The set list was similarly revamped. Favorites such as “Riot Maker,” “Einstein” and “Welcome to the Midwest” made the opening segment of Tech N9ne’s 90-minute set almost flawless. The masterful interplay between Tech N9ne, Krizz Kaliko and the rap duo Ces Cru on “Unfair” was the evening’s artistic pinnacle. The song’s disorienting torrent of words are a hip-hop version of the Tower of Babel. The unintelligible outburst was fascinating.

Renditions of “Beautiful Music” and the otherwise prodigiously gifted Kaliko’s “Simon Says” represented the only musical lulls in an otherwise ceaselessly frenetic party. Unfortunately, Tech N9ne’s rambling monologue near the conclusion of the concert killed much of its momentum. He’d be well served to put as much preparation into his stage patter as obviously goes into his rigorously paced performances.

Aside from the unexplained absence of longtime sidekick Kutt Calhoun, the concert’s most surprising twist was an encore after the traditional closing song “I’m a Playa.” Assisted by Mayday, the best of the concert’s four opening acts, Tech N9ne performed “The Noose,” a somber song about the challenges faced by combat veterans.

Mayday resembles an artless version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Even so, its welcome use of live instrumentation made the Miami-based act compelling.

An appearance by Machine Gun Kelly also captivated. Initially an awkward blur of nervous energy, the newcomer settled down after a fan removed his pants. He then shamelessly danced to Blink-182’s pop-punk hit “What’s My Age Again?” in his underwear. The Ohioan’s new release on Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Bad Boy Records is aptly titled “Half Naked & Almost Famous.”

As sated fans stumble toward the exits after midnight, they were informed that Tech N9ne’s tour would conclude July 7 at Cricket Wireless Amphitheater, the Bonner Springs venue formerly known as Sandstone. Proponents of uninhibited revelry are advised to circle the date. Tech N9ne’s shows remain unparalleled celebrations of Kansas City.

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