Brother Ali at Club Red Last Night

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Brother Ali, The Grouch, Eligh and Los Rakas
Club Red
December 3, 2010

The Grouch might have been the headliner last night at Club Red in Tempe, but it seemed pretty obvious that Minneapolis rapper Brother Ali was the main draw on this stop of the How The Grouch Stole Christmas Tour. The sold-out club was practically bursting at the seams for Ali's hour-long set, although a large percentage of fans stuck around for The Grouch as well, despite a show that stretched into the early hours of Saturday morning.

Panama-by-way-of-California rappers Los Rakas kicked off the show at 10 p.m. with an interesting blend of reggae and hip-hop, featuring lyrics that bounced back and forth between English and Spanish. Living Legends member Eligh followed with a half-hour set that showcased tracks from his latest album, Grey Crow, as well as some older material.

By the time Ali took the stage at about 11:15, the audience -- much of which had been in attendance for more than three hours -- was primed for a great show, and Ali didn't disappoint. Ali's set featured tracks from throughout his Rhymesayers Entertainment catalog. Between songs, Ali pontificated on such heady subjects as race, religion and immigration, although it was often difficult to make out what he was saying over the din of the crowd.

In a surprisingly poignant moment near the end of his set, Ali spoke about the recent death of fellow Rhymesayers artist Micheal "Eyedea" Larsen before performing a cover of the Eyedea & Abilities song "Smile." Ali wrapped things up just after midnight with "Forest Whitiker," a self-deprecating song from Shadows on the Sun that addresses both his weight and albinism in a humorous light.

The Grouch, another member of the California-based Living Legends crew, didn't hit the stage until 12:30 a.m. The crowd had thinned slightly after Ali's set, but a large contingent remained to see the Grouch close out the show with another solid hour of indie hip-hop. After a few solo songs, the Grouch invited Eligh back onto the stage for a handful of songs from the pair's numerous collaborations.

The night came to a close with all of the night's MCs returning to the stage for a Christmas-themed posse cut that featured Ali leading the crowd in chants of "Ho, ho, ho" and Los Rakas dropping in a few lines of "Feliz Navidad." It was a fitting show of unity from a collection of artist that are not only tour mates, but legitimate friends.

An Almost Complete Brother Ali Setlist:

The Preacher
Fresh Air
Truth Is
[A couple songs I didn't catch the name of. Maybe someone can help me out on these two?]
Tight Rope
Good Lord
Uncle Sam Goddamn
[A capella freestyle/beatboxing]
Smile (Eyedea & Abilities cover)
Rain Water
Forest Whitiker

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: How The Grouch Stole Christmas Tour at Club Red

Personal Bias: Brother Ali is one of my favorite MCs out there right now.

The Crowd: Pretty typical indie rap crowd. Lots of hoodies.

Overheard: "Yeah! Colorado!" - some guy complimenting me on my Eric Bieniemy throwback jersey.

Random Notebook Dump: Standing in the back with the drunks sucks. I can't hear Ali preachin'.

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