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Timothy Finn blogs about the Kansas City music scene

Poor attendance mars rapper T-Pain’s appearance at Crossroads KC

08/23/2014 7:29 AM

08/24/2014 6:08 PM

T-Pain might be the Samson of hip-hop and rhythm and blues.

The pre-eminent musical party-starter of his generation, T-Pain, 28, has appeared on dozens of hits during the past nine years. Yet only about 300 people attended his concert Friday at Crossroads KC.

There’s no rational explanation for the astonishingly low turnout. Superstitious music fans might wonder if T-Pain’s decision to cut off his signature dreadlocks last year was linked to his inability to sell more tickets Friday.

When he walked onto the stage, many members of the meager audience initially failed to recognize the man with the shorn head wearing a Kansas City Chiefs T-shirt as the star of the show. T-Pain’s new look and lack of box office clout didn’t affect his showmanship. His rousing 95-minute performance touched on more than 30 of his most popular songs.

Beginning with the hit “I’m Sprung” from the accurately titled 2005 album “Rappa Ternt Sanga,” the native Floridian altered the course of rhythm and blues with a glossy production style that made heavy use the Auto-Tune vocal effect. T-Pain’s processed sound and bacchanalian subject matter remain popular. His latest single “Up Down (Do This All Day)” is in rotation on KPRS Hot 103 Jamz.

Backed by a five-piece band supplemented by a DJ and two enthusiastic dancers, T-Pain sang and rapped on renditions of his collaborations with Kanye West (“Good Life”), DJ Khaled (“I’m So Hood” and “All I Do Is Win”), Wiz Khalifa (“Black and Yellow”) and Flo Rida (“Low”).

The band regularly took unexpected detours such as the clever addition of the hook to the Isley Brothers song “Between the Sheets” to “5 O’Clock,” T-Pain’s 2011 duet with the pop star Lily Allen. A brief cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” demonstrated the musicians’ range.

A stage set that included a pair of couches, end tables and a busy bar were meant to evoke a house party. The Kansas City-based vocalist and rapper Krizz Kaliko watched T-Pain croon the chart-topping hit “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)” from one of the couches.

As with many house parties, Friday’s function included several unwanted guests. T-Pain allowed a large local crew to execute their dull and derivative hip-hop for about 10 minutes in the middle of his set. The misstep was the sole flaw of a performance that deserved a much larger audience.

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