Recap: Kid Cudi in San Francisco
June 20, 2011
Kid Cudi doesn’t front. He wears all of his emotions and feelings on his sleeve, and undoubtedly, this is how he has become one of the biggest names in hip-hop today, filling out the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on Sunday, a stage large enough to once host an NBA team.
The former Lonely Stoner (haven’t smoked in three months, he exclaims to a completely dumbfounded San Francisco crowd) knew exactly what his audience, almost entirely young and out on summer break, needed. Cudi, with band and heaping portions of the soft-loud dynamic of teenage rock that was perfected by Nirvana and trademarked by Linkin Park, straddled the line between hip-hop and emo and outright became a rock vocalist for long stretches of the show. When he broke out in a Jimi Hendrix cover in mid-set, performing “Hey Joe,” it seemed quite natural and fitting. The band dutifully converted all the songs on the set to use the quiet-then-screams aesthetic, even for those songs that weren’t so in the original studio recordings.
Notably absent from much of Kid Cudi’s recordings, and his stage show tonight, was angst. That staple of teenage emotions that was tapped by so many bands and acts with an emotional edge doesn’t seem to be in Cudi’s vocabulary. It’s almost as if he needed to bring along Cage, from the Weathermen, on tour with him to round out the spectrum. On stage, they performed “Maniac,” with Cudi’s whispers barely audible and Cage’s bombast in the hook properly executes the soft-loud routine.
Also served in heapings was Cudi’s banter with the crowd. In a stark contrast with his mentor Kanye West, who wastes little time between songs, Cudi wants to know exactly how the crowd is feeling at all times—his call and response routine is more like a conversation. In a somewhat awkward moment, he motioned to the crowd and security to allow a girl closer up to the stage, until she signaled that she’s fine. Another time, he absolved the crowd to “smoke responsibly, drink responsibly.” He repeated a question shouted at him, “Will you marry me?”, and deadpanned, “Yes”. Luckily for him, or perhaps actually an effect of his personality, the crowd was effusive in its feelings at all times, which is unusual for the reserved nature of Bay Area crowds. He definitely wants to express how he cares for his audience, and to his credit, it appears quite sincere.