Black Star Kool Haus, Toronto ON November 12
Published Nov 13, 2011No matter how much detail you're able to tack onto the past events, there's just something about marking time in years that leaves us forever wondering where all the time's gone. It's not surprising then to spot mouths agape at the realization that over a decade has passed since the Black Star unit of Mos Def (now Yasin Bey) and Talib Kweli dropped their seminal debut disc in 1998. Differing career priorities would take each down separate paths shortly after its release, and while a permanent reunion has never seemed in the cards, the two have been mounting a curious comeback as of late, spawning a mini-tour that brought them to Toronto.
Electing to sidestep the opening-act concept, the show's promoters banked instead on the competent selections of stalwart DJs Faze and Wristpect, effectively ensuring a steady stream of familiar cuts folks were a least guaranteed to nod to. It wasn't until shortly after midnight that the night's star attractions, sharply dressed in button-down shirts and slacks, strode onto the stage and immediately launched into the Madlib-produced new joint "Fix Up," before slipping into "Astronomy" to lead off the memory-lane trip that would follow.
The duo's contrasting deliveries were evident from the beginning, with Kweli playing the ferocious, battle-ready straight man to Mos Def's quirky other-worldliness, with the would-be space cadet twisting and augmenting familiar verses to match his more recent free-form persona. Notable moments from throughout their careers -- from "This Means You" to "Auditorium" -- helped pad out the set, with the pair pausing at various points to engage the crowd, drop tributary gems like Gil Scott-Heron's "We Almost Lost Detroit," or even to reveal the Pacquiao-Marquez decision, to the displeasure of many.
A healthy encore offered up even more fire in gems like "History" and "Move Something," before the vets opted for the unique approach of requesting cuts from each other, a turn that made for two fierce a cappella servings (the better from Kweli) that lit up the night. Timeless show-stoppers "Get By" and "Umi Says" helped wind the surprisingly generous two-hour set down, though an unknown instrumental number accompanied by a slow-dancing Mos Def making love to a speaker marked the night's official "one too many" moment.
Temporary loopiness aside, those on hand witnessed what was by far the self-anointed Boogeyman's most sensible showing in recent memory, and a sound performance by Black Star, which, despite coming a good ten years removed from ultimate relevance, still managed to complement our many near-sacred memories.