Concert Review

Run the Jewels Lived Up to the Hype at Marquee Theatre Last Night

If you went to Thursday night’s Run the Jewels concert at Marquee Theatre, there’s a good chance you’re reading this while nursing a hangover and a black eye. Run the Jewels has an interesting fandom, one that loves cats and sports invisible 36-inch chains. Seeing the crowd use the duo’s token “fist and gun” gesture is akin to excited Wu-Tang Clan fans “throwing up the Wu.”

Run the Jewels is a match made in hip-hop heaven. Killer Mike and El-P started the project after touring together in 2013, and the pair created the Run the Jewels I, an album free of the influences of record labels to “sell” the record. El-P and Killer Mike created a wholly original and innovative record playing to each of their strengths. El-P’s extensive producing background and rapid-fire raps were the perfect complement to Killer Mike’s biting social commentary.

The pair continues to run strong, as RTJ just released its first remix album, which is full of nothing but cat songs. (For added hilarity, watch El-P “audition” cats for the Meow the Jewels record.) 

RTJ is buzzing for good reason — EL-P and Killer Mike put on one hell of a show. Even though both musicians have decades of experience between them, RTJ feels fresh. The pair was full of energy on stage and remained humble (for the most part). The front part of Marquee Theatre felt like a warzone as fans moshed along to the music. El-P and Killer Mike continued to engage the crowd and were an active part of the show, a stark comparison to recent hip-hop shows in the area (i.e. Kanye West bragging about his shoes at Summer Ends Music Festival).

RTJ’s touring DJ, Trackstar, took the stage first and began playing Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” Killer Mike walked out with El-P in tow and hyped up the crowd by encouraging them to sing along. The show kicked off with an air of triumph that never faltered.

The show’s structure loosely followed the play order for Run the Jewels I and II. “We Are the Champions” bled into the band’s eponymous anthem, and switched over to “Oh my Darling (Don’t Cry)” and “Blockbuster Night Part 1.” Hearing the audience sing along to lyrics like “you can all run naked backwards through a field of dicks” was only the beginning of the campy nature of the evening. The lyrics got even more over the top, and fans with plastic gold chains made their way to the front by crowd surfing.

The most ridiculous part of the evening was the raunchy “Love Again,” which features the chorus “dick in the mouth all day.” The crowd was mostly male, so it was hilarious to hear a bunch of 20-somethings shout this.

This was my third RTJ show. When I saw the duo in Los Angeles and Tucson, my first observation was how the men outnumbered the women. I get it, the lyrical content isn’t exactly a feminist anthem, but if you’re put off by songs like “Love Again,” I recommend listening to songs like “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” and "Early" while taking what RTJ says with a grain of salt. Much like Wu-Tang’s cult of personality, remember that most of RTJ’s fans are a bunch of goofy kids wearing plastic jewelry, and it’s all in good fun.

Killer Mike introduced “Love Again” as a song “about my high school girlfriend.” When the song concluded, El-P said with a huge grin, “the award for the song that makes me laugh the most while performing goes to ‘Love Again’… that is a love song, don’t get it twisted.”

Last night’s show didn’t have as much banter as my previous RTJ shows, which was a little disappointing, because it’s entertaining to hear El-P and Killer Mike chat. In the past, Killer Mike has talked about Ferguson, and in this era of a mass shooting happening nearly every week, I would highly recommend looking up some of his interviews to see him speak out about social issues. It’s no wonder he tried to run for political office in his home state of Georgia.

“Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” usually comes with some sort of warning, and this time, Killer Mike introduced it by saying “If you have a selfie stick, stick it up your ass.”

El-P followed with, “If you have expensive glasses or are prone to fainting, get the fuck out. I can’t save your fucking sneakers.”

Things got a little sentimental as “A Christmas Fucking Miracle” was dedicated to lost loved ones and standing up to anyone who puts you down. RTJ returned for a one song encore, “Angel Duster,” wrapping up a one hour set that flew by.

And if you were wondering, the answer is no. Nobody tried to sneak a cat into Marquee Theatre to audition for Meow the Jewels.
1. Run the Jewels
2. Oh My Darling Don't Cry
3. Blockbuster Night, Part 1
4. Banana Clipper
5. 36" Chain
7. Sea Legs
8. Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)
9. Pew Pew Pew
10. Lie, Cheat, Steal
11. Early (with Boots)
12. All Due Respect
13. Love Again 
14. Get It
15. A Christmas Fucking Miracle

16. Angel Duster

Critic’s Notebook:
Last Night: Run the Jewels at Marquee Theatre in Tempe

Personal Bias: I really wish I could say I was a fan since day one, but I fell in love when I heard II. I drove to FYF Fest in Los Angeles a couple of months ago mostly to see RTJ.

The Crowd:
Hours before the show, my buddy who’s a bartender at Marquee Theatre said she expected the crowd to be “a bunch of white kids.” She was right.

Fun Fact:
I first heard Run the Jewels on NPR, which doesn't help the crowd stereotype one bit.

Random Notebook Dump:
“Why are there children on stage right after the song about fellatio?”

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Melissa Fossum
Contact: Melissa Fossum