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Gibson Amphitheatre, Universal City (Sunday, Dec. 21).
The ultraprolific rap/music machine known as Lil Wayne stormed into town Sunday with the year’s best-selling album and on the heels of eight Grammy nominations. While not possessed of the most mellifluous rap, he makes up for it with a charismatic and straightforward stage presence.
Headlining the I Am Music tour with T-Pain, Keisha Cole and Gym Class Heroes, Lil Wayne burst onto a sold-out Gibson Amphitheater stage from a creative 30-foot steel mesh cage that cleverly functioned as part of a seven-screen video display. Backed by a powerful band and DJ, he ripped through a 90-minute set that included “Mr. Carter,” “Got Money,” “Turning Me On,” “Misunderstood,” “Go DJ” and many more that covered the breadth of his 10-year career. And mind you, he’s only 26.
If there is a weakness in Wayne’s arsenal, it is his vocal limitation, but it was masked by his immense lyrical capabilities. He reached deep on some notes, then easily soared into a rasp that would have made Tom Waits proud. Wayne closed with the majestic “My Life” (made famous through his collaboration with the Game) and “A Milli,” the latter from this year’s double-platinum “Tha Carter III.” He took a bow, comedically but lovingly, on “I Will Always Love You,” and then the curtains came down.
Vocalist-rapper T-Pain brought a zany circus atmosphere to his set, with the stage mirroring the title of his latest album “Three Rings.” Accompanied by flame throwers, acrobats, dwarfs (including one who merrily stripped down to her bra and thong to shake her booty) and 8-foot giants on stilts, he sailed through a satisfying hourlong set that featured “Freeze,” “Chopped and Screwed” and “Bartender.” He later joined Lil Wayne for a go at “Can’t Believe It.” Drinking to get one’s high on was a theme throughout the set, as T-Pain glorified the art of imbibing to have a good time.
As R. Kelly and others of his ilk ease into their twilight, T-Pain represents the next generation of R&B/hip-hop vocalists who can belt out a tune and rap. He possesses a huge voice, reminiscent of a smoothed-out Teddy Pendergrass, but is quite capable of holding his own when he raps. A true superstar in the making.
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