Past years have seen rocker upon rocker perform at Fall Fest, while the hip-hop artist was typically reserved for Spring Fling. So it was rather uncommon when Program Board announced that Common, on the heels of his May 24 platinum album release “Be,” would perform at this year’s festival. But Common rose to the challenge and then some, as GW talent and imported acts set the stage Saturday.
Things started out with the Troubadours and the Vibes giving the day a little GW flavor with their a cappella styling.
Speak No Evil was next up on stage, making a stellar introduction in what was one of their first major openings to the GW community. Blending jazz, funk and soul with a surprising knack for hip-hop, the group worked the crowd extremely well.
By the time piano rock band Jukebox the Ghost came on, University Yard was buzzing a little more. Students may know them under their old moniker The Sunday Mail. With a new name, their revamped sound incorporates elements of Radiohead, Muse, Death Cab for Cutie, the Beatles, Phish (minus the crazy jamming), Franz Ferdinand, Ben Folds and Queen – not a bad pool to draw from.
After such a strong showing from the local GW talent, it was time for the big guns to come out. However, with Emily King, the big guns came in a small package.
A petite artist with a huge voice, King performed a short but sweet solo acoustic set. While she is truly a gifted singer, the lack of a backing band seemed to hurt the performance. At times, it felt like she failed to capture the audience, as the students got somewhat bored with the bland, monotonous guitar work. However, King made up for it with her intriguing vocal melodies and her unbelievable voice.
As King left, the quad was full of eager students anticipating Common’s performance. Unfortunately for them, the anticipation lasted quite a while. It was almost an hour between King’s closing number and the arrival of the hip-hop all-star. However, the fervent crowd played right into Common’s hand, as he took the stage.
As he came out with tunes such as “Be” and “Go!” from the new album, it seemed as though he was going to empty the tanks too early. However, to everyone’s surprise (and pleasure), he kept the energy level of the show up all night. With amazing stage presence, he truly tailored the show to the GW students, working the Colonials, the District and even Thurston Hall into his rhymes, and the audience responded to his every beck and call.
His drummer and DJ were heavily showcased, while the keyboardist didn’t get enough credit. Drawing upon old school beats to complement his new styling, Common stayed fresh throughout the whole show. The energy climaxed appropriately at the last number, as he destroyed his drummer’s rig in a fit of musical energy. The show lacked those “standout moments,” but overall it was a solid, high energy, dynamic performance that left the audience quite satisfied.