Sunday, April 28, 2024

Concert Battle: Pruitt vs Cube

April 22 and 23, 2024

Can there be even MORE content for you this weekend, gentle reader? Yes! This week I saw not one but TWO concerts (and a dance event, but we don’t review dance here so let’s move on).

Rather than review these separately (and since I don’t have either one’s new release) I present…Concert Battle!

Before we get to that know that only a day ago the CD Odyssey had its first ever encounter with…Christian rock! Intrigued by just what the hell I would say about such a record? Simply scroll down after you read Concert Battle! and find out. You will not be disappointed.

And now…Concert Battle! On Monday I saw Katie Pruitt and on Tuesday I saw Ice Cube. Both were great but who was better? Read on!

The contenders:

Name: Katie Pruitt
Style: Indie Folk
Age: 30
Height: Undisclosed (maybe 5'3")

Name: Ice Cube
Style: Hip Hop
Age: 54
Height: 5’8”

Analysis: Pruitt has the age advantage, but Cube has the reach. Fortunately, there will be no fighting involved, rendering this statistic completely irrelevant.

The venue

Capital Ballroom: Built in the 1920s, this iconic hall has had many renos and even more names over the years. It currently holds up to 600 people, but I think that would look very packed indeed. We got some plush seats in a banquette at the back of the room which had a great view after finding our usual balcony spots were grabbed by “others”.

Katie did not fill the venue and I’d say there were maybe 100-150 in attendance. The bathrooms at the Capital are not great, but I was good and dehydrated (by design) and didn’t need to brave them.

Memorial Arena: Built in 2005 (after much political toing and froing), the building holds up to 7,400 but was configured for the show to allow about three quarters of that. It was packed. Like all stadiums, the bathrooms are a true horror show, but again forward planning precluded my attendance to them.

Our seats were stadium seats a ways from the stage but at a very good height and angle for viewing.

Analysis: I will always take a medium sized concert hall over a giant stadium, if only for the sound. Packing the stadium isn’t the deciding factor here.

Winner: Pruitt.

The crowd

Katie Pruitt: Not surprisingly, a generally younger crowd of twenty and thirty-somethings. You could tell they were true fans that were excited to see the show, and the smaller number gave the event a nice intimacy. Everyone was nice, and while there were same loud talkers at the back of the room, they were doing it at the back of the room, which is the right place for such behaviour. Also, they quietened down when Pruitt took the stage, so all good.

Ice Cube: Also a younger crowd of twenty and thirty somethings, which was a bit more surprising given Ice Cube made his most famous music in the eighties and nineties and spent a lot of recent history making movies. This crowd, while young, were not just there for the experience – you got a real sense these folks LOVED Ice Cube.

The folks directly in front of us were particularly awesome. It was two couples about our age and two young women I think must’ve been their daughters. The one “mom” was clearly a hip hop fan from back in the day, knowing every song and hitting the experience HARD.

Mom had raised those two young women right. They knew every song within a few notes, singing along (in time) and dancing with the enthusiasm of true believers who were there to see the show and not just be seen being at a show.

Winner: Ice Cube

The Opener:

Katie Pruitt:

Katie Pruitt’s opener was a young singer-songwriter from Nashville named Jack Van Cleaf who I instantly liked. He sang clear and with the grace of a natural storyteller. The highlight song was called “Cowboy” and sounded a bit like Blue Rodeo’s “5 Days in May” and ended with an artful reference to Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty”.

Also good was “Rattlesnake” with this sweet little lyric:

“Love is like a rattlesnake
Before it bites it tries to warn you.”

Van Cleaf’s band was a trio, where the bass player added in a drum machine as needed. This was not annoying like you might think. Katie Pruitt joined him on stage and did some dueting with him, but I thought he was doing just fine on his own.

Ice Cube:

Ice Cube had a bunch of opening acts. The two hip hop bands were “Peter Jackson” and a guy with the clever name of “Merkules”. Also, we were treated to the DJing of some dude called DJ Young Legend.

DJ Young Legend just played the first third of various hit hip hop tracks from the past thirty years or so and occasionally shouted at the fans to wave their hands around. Many in the crowd seemed to love this, particularly the aforementioned true fans directly in front of us. Watching them enjoy it so much and sing along was much more fun than the actual package of tunes he rolled out. If I wanted to listen to hip hop records, I can do that at home.

Of Peter Jackson and Merkules, I enjoyed Peter Jackson much more. Pretty good flow, and an upbeat vibe. Merkules admitted that his schtick is to take other people’s songs and riff off of them live. This is exactly what he proceeded to do, which I found exactly as derivative as it sounds. Apparently he is well loved by many in the crowd, but I did not get it. In his banter he was genuine and gracious to all the folks that helped him succeed (including his brother, girlfriend and parents). He even brought his parents out on stage to thank them for their support over the years.  I found myself liking him as a person, even though I didn’t enjoy his performance.

The biggest issue I had was all the openers seemed intent on pumping up the crowd with exhortations to “get your hands up!” and “y’all excited about Ice Cube?!?” I don’t like to be told what to do at the best of times, and the hyping went on for the better part of two hours before Ice Cube took the stage. Hype people up with your performance, not with commands.

Winner: Katie Pruitt

The Main Event

Katie Pruitt

Katie Pruitt is one of my favourite singer-songwriters in recent years. Her 2020 album was my favourite of that year, and her new record, “Mantras” is almost as good. This meant she had a lot of great material to work with, despite being only two records into her career.

Pruitt is unassuming on stage, but still commands it, chiefly through her powerhouse vocals. She’s great at moving up and down her range and her songs have melodies that are natural, free and easy. She sang with grace and intensity and connected well with her audience.

She did a good mix between the new album (I’d say about 65%) and the old (35%) and while she didn’t play all my favourites (I really wanted to hear “Georgia”) she played most of them.

Late in the show she unplugged and climbed down into the audience with her guitar to sing without amplification as we all crowded around to hear. Everyone honoured the moment by being still and silent and it was quite lovely indeed. I was moved, literally, abandoning the safety of the banquette to take part in a quiet moment of connection.

Best moment: This came early on with an inspired rendition of “Grace Has a Gun” but she was solid throughout.

Worst moment: Pruitt had a good level of banter, but she went on a bit too long with a schtick using a Magic Eight Ball to answer questions from the audience. No one seemed included to participate and the whole thing was awkward and went on too long.

Best diss song: Katie Pruitt’s music is more about forgiveness and understanding that disses but “White Lies, White Jesus and You” hits the mark as a song that takes aim at those who use religion to judge others. Best line:

“'Cause you talk about forgiveness like a favor
Like it's something that you didn't have to do
Speaking of some things I put behind me
White lies, white Jesus and you”

Mic drop.

Ice Cube

Being 54 years young and having a bunch of children’s movies under his belt have in now way softened Ice Cube. He still hits the rhymes hard and has great flow. He also is fully in command of the crowd. He had the 6,000 or so fans in the palm of his hand from the moment he hit the stage.

Cube has so much good content to draw on, and he digs deep into his catalogue, working N.W.A., his early stuff and his late stuff all into the show equally well. His banter is solid, and felt like quality skits from a rap record in the day, only new.

Overall, I had a good time, but I did have some issues. First, I don’t think in the course of two hours Cube played a single song until the end. He would typically start up a tune, drop the first few verses, but then descend into some sort of crowd participation chant. I don’t know if this is just how he always rolls, but when I saw Run the Jewels they were able to rap full songs, and I was hoping for the same.

Instead, I found myself getting excited about a tune I liked, reveling in the early verses, and then losing interest when I realized the chanting part had taken over and we were about to segue prematurely into another half song. At one point he said “we’re gonna do 4 NWA songs in a row!” to the enthused roar of the crowd. Because of this half-song approach those four songs were wrapped and done in about 10 minutes.

Best moment: Ice Cube was at his best during the banter moments. He has a natural command of the stage, and he was able to rile up the crowd at will. At one point he had opposing sides of the stadium alternating chants of “Party over here – f___ you over there!” which was so fun it was the first and only thing that night that I was told to do, that I did.

Worst moment:No Vaseline” is a classic tune. Don’t tell me you are going to sing it and then sing two minutes of it. If you are still willing to say all that nasty stuff, then say it all the way through.

Best Diss song:No Vaseline” is the greatest rap diss track of all time. Ice Cube even named a bunch of other contenders before he performed it, just so he could clarify they were not as good. He was right. “No Vaseline” is the best. I wish I’d heard all of it, but still – it’s brilliant. It is so down and nasty that I can’t in good conscience share any of the lyrics. Go listen yourself if you dare.

Winner: Katie Pruitt

The Merch

Part of a good show is good merch. How did our competitors perform on this front? Let’s see:

Katie Pruitt:

When I went to the merch table initially all that was there were some Jack Van Cleaf shirts. I demurred, not knowing if I’d like him or not. After his set I went back and bought a funky t-shirt celebrating the song “Cowboy”. I also met Jack, who consented to the friendly photo you see above. Very cool!

However, despite a couple of mournful returns, at no point did Katie Pruitt’s merch appear. Nothing. I wanted to buy her new album but…no. I wanted a t-shirt to commemorate the occasion but again…no.

It is annoying enough when the merch table runs out of mediums, but not bringing anything at all? Lame.

Ice Cube:

Ice Cube had a grade A merch table. The lineup to get to it was 40 minutes long, but once you were there you were rewarded. The designs were groovy, the shirts had the tour locations on the back and the tour had a cool name (“Straight Into Canada”).

Of some frustration, my first option was…you guessed it…sold out of mediums. Argh. I bought a large that later turned out to be at least not too large, albeit a bit roomy. It was pricey at $60, but opening act Jack Van Cleaf’s shirt was $45 and only one-sided so…fine.

Winner: Ice Cube


Ice Cube takes the categories of both Crowd and Merch, but Pruitt responds with wins of her own in Venue, Opener and the all-important Main Event.

Overall Winner: Katie Pruitt

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