Tom Green and the Keepin' it Real Crew
At the Commodore on Friday, January 13
It's only January, but Tom Green's Friday-the-13th concert at the Commodore is already on my list as one of the best of the year. Or one of the worst. I'm really not sure which.
One thing I'm certain of is that it was pure spectacle from start to finish; those hoping for an evening of topical rhymes and overwhelming beats were undoubtedly disappointed. On the other hand, expectations that the crudely imaginative Green might opt to mock a typical hip-hop show were also misguided. His Keepin' It Real Crew-MC Bones, DJ EZ Mike, Ivan Berry, Playboy Jeremy Klein, and MC Shawn Anthony-at least attempted to put on a more or less serious rap set only to get derailed by their frontman's personality.
There were times, however, when the show did border on unintentional parody. For instance, when the houselights came on barely one song into the set, and stayed on for most of the night so Green could look out at the crowd and say, "Holy shit, this is unbelievable," and tell us we were the greatest audience yet. (By his own admission, the Canuck comedian had played nine shows previously.) Or when Green and the Keepin' It Reals invited a couple of women to sit on a couch set up on the stage. The intention, it soon became clear, was to spray some whipped cream into their mouths, but Klein-Green's right-hand rake-couldn't find the canister. (Another function of the multitalented Klein was to scramble eggs for audience members and band.) And then there was the point, mid-rap, when the Jí¤ger-soused Green suddenly blurted, "What the fuck am I rapping about?"
As a concert-that is, an event where one goes to listen to, and ideally enjoy, a performance by talented musicians-the show was a bit of a washout. EZ Mike's beats are above average, and though Green's flow lacks anything distinctive (think of an even whiter, Ottawa-raised Beastie Boy), he does occasionally drop some funny one-liners. But he's quick enough on the mike, and his background-he was in the Juno-nominated early-'90s rap act Organized Rhyme-gives him a degree of credibility. But he's too much of a showman-ham might be more accurate-to clam up and let the music do the talking. He continuously interrupted tracks to address the audience, and announced songs from his album Prepare for Impact without actually ever doing them. It seemed like every other tune he was crowd-surfing or wandering into the audience. Near the end of the show he invited a couple of young Australian guys up on-stage, and you could tell this was one memory they'd be reliving around didjeridu circles for decades to come.
In short, Green came across as a super-congenial host intent on making sure everyone had a good time. There's something innately decent, democratic, and-dare I say it?-very Canadian about him. Even after the Holly?wood marriage to Drew Barry?more, the move to L.A., the MTV show, and the film forays (he mentioned the notorious Freddy Got Fingered twice, each time to cheers), he seems to have his head on relatively straight. He gave a shout-out to the Ottawa Senators, claiming they would bring the Stanley Cup back to Canada. When he said "Fuck America," Klein picked up the chant. Green looked at Klein and said, "What? You're from Orange County!"
Like Green's television antics and Green himself, the show had a refreshing, anything-can-happen quality. A little more substance to the music would have been nice-but hey, when someone's frying eggs on-stage while an MC raps the rhymes to "Don't Mess With a Man (After He Takes a Big Poo Poo)", it's tough not to crack a smile.