50 Cent at Celebrity Theatre

I have to admit, I wasn't really expecting much from 50 Cent's show last night. Maybe it's unfair to Fiddy, but the last few mainstream rap shows I've attended have led me to believe that commercial rap stars have at least one annoying trait in common with Los Angeles Dodgers fans: namely, a marked proclivity to show up late and leave early. It seems like any time you go see a rapper who's sold more than 1 million albums, you're going to be waiting around for an hour and a half after the openers finish just to see said rap superstar half-ass his way through a 45-minute set (and that's on a good night).

Then there's the fact that I'm not really a 50 Cent fan to begin with.

So imagine my surprise when 50 hit the stage promptly at 9:30 and performed a solid 95-minute set of all-killer-no-filler material, much to the delight of a near-capacity Celebrity Theatre crowd (a somewhat surprising turnout for a Monday night). My previous exposure to 50's music had been mostly limited to throwaway pop radio hits like "In da Club," so I came away as much impressed with 50's beat selection and lyrical dexterity as with his respect for his fans and overall professionalism. In short, Fiddy just won himself a new convert last night.

The night's festivities kicked off just before 8 p.m., with local MCs Trap and Hannibal Leq (two-thirds of the forthcoming Monstaz Ink project, along with Lo). Trap played the role of hype man early on, as Leq tore through three grimy street bangers while curiously encouraging the crowd to chant "Fuck you, Hannibal." The pair was joined by P Thoro, who performed two songs before giving way to Trap for the last two songs of a short set. Trap made the best of the time he had, ending the first set with one of his strongest songs, the melodic, catchy "380."

A (presumably local?) four-man crew hit the stage immediately afterward, and judging by their matching T-shirts, I'm going to guess they go by the name of Dezert Eaglez (although a quick Google search for that name just led to some Austrian rock band who sound like they're one bad YouTube video away from Internet infamy). I was all set to give them a hard time about wearing T-shirts with their rap "handles" printed on the back, until I realized how incredibly easy it makes my job as a journalist. So here's to you, Royal-T, Yasu, Megadon and Yung Budde. I wish every up-and-coming musician would follow your lead.

I have no idea who the next crew to hit the stage was, but they seemed to be aiming for the record of "Most People Squeezed onto the Celebrity Theatre Stage." I counted nine dudes total: three MCs, one hype man, two guys who mostly seemed to be directing everyone around stage, one guy who just stood there looking menacing and two other guys documenting the whole ordeal on camcorders. If they mentioned their name(s), I missed it, but they seemed to be having a good time. I just wish they'd remembered their T-shirts with their names on the backs so I could give them a shout-out here. Maybe next time.

The three openers were done by 8:50, so I settled in for what I expected to be an excruciating, hour-plus wait for the headliner to finally arrive. Fortunately, Fiddy had a different agenda in mind. The Queens, New York-born rapper performed a one-hour set highlighted by harder-edged material like "I Run New York" and "What Up Gangsta." About 20 minutes in, I leaned over to my friend to tell him how pleasantly surprised I was by the show so far, to which he replied "Yeah, it doesn't sound like the stuff I hear on the radio."

Fiddy finally broke out "In da Club" after about an hour, but by then I was in a pretty forgiving mood. He then left the stage briefly, only to be coaxed out for a half-hour, beat-a-minute, mixtape-style encore.

Near the end of the encore, 50 briefly broke character from his "tough guy" swagger and grabbed a young kid out of the audience who had 50's name shaved into the back of his head. "Do you like my music?" Fiddy asked the kid, who responded with an enthusiastic "Yes!"

"I like my music too," he replied, before launching into another song and dancing with the awestruck tot on a riser.

Ultimately, I wish I had been a bigger fan of 50 heading into this concert, because I probably would've enjoyed it even more. As it is, 50 proved to be a surprisingly consumate showman. In a time when most concertgoers are counting every dollar, 50 Cent provided plenty of bang for the proverbial buck.

Critics Notebook:

Last Night: 50 Cent at the Celebrity Theatre

Better Than: I expected it to be, by a long shot.

One More Thing: I tried to get a decent ass shot of the two smokin' hot chicks in short shorts who kept leaning over the guard rail in front of us, but this was the best I could do with my iPhone. Sorry guys. Blame it on Steve Jobs.

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