Snoop Dogg and Kid Cudi headlined A&O’s Blowout concert at the Welsh-Ryan Arena on Friday night in what A&O representatives call the student group’s biggest on-campus concert — beating out last year’s John Legend show. More than 5,300 tickets were sold with a dollar from each going toward NU Stands with Pakistan flood relief.
“We’ve never sold out Welsh-Ryan before,” said A&O Chairman Barry McCardel. “We’re extremely happy.”
Cudi has a knack for taking his far-from-cheerful body of work and flipping its mood. “Soundtrack 2 My Life” is a sulky portrait of an unhappy childhood, but it was a high-energy number well-placed early in his show. The track, “Erase Me,” from his upcoming album Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager, has lyrics of lost love and hopelessness, but Friday night it was almost anthemic and celebratory. And when Cudi got the audience to put cell phones and lighters up during “Man on the Moon,” it was clear that, however ironic, Cudi’s most depressing songs about isolation bring Northwestern together quite well.
Cudi made sure to point out that his upcoming Man on the Moon II will be tougher than his debut, though. “My first album was like raw emotions from when I was a child,” he said. “And a lot of people tried to take shots at me and tried to take my kindness for weakness. I’m unstoppable, un-fuck-with-able. I’m a fucking wizard.”
Not one for club bangers, Cudi couldn’t keep the energy up forever. His slower songs and a handful of new material made sustaining momentum a little tricky, and acoustically, Welsh-Ryan isn’t exactly the best place to show off Cudi’s sound palette of atmospheric synths and outer space sounds.
Fortunately, he recovered with a three-song medley of some his best work. It’s not a new trick — Cudi has been doing it as far back as his stretch as an opener for Lady Gaga — but there’s no doubt as to why it’s still a set list staple. “Cudi Zone” is quintessential Cudi: rapid-fire rap verses and a moaning wail of a chorus over skittering drums. “Memories” isn’t his own song — it’s his guest favor for “Sexy Bitch” beatsmith David Guetta — but it fit right in with the medley’s finale. “Day ‘N’ Night” is one of his biggest hits, and the remix by Italian duo Crookers he performed added enough kick to gain back the energy lost earlier.
There aren’t too many artists who can end their show with two slow songs (“Pursuit of Happiness” and “Solo Dolo (Nightmare)”) and still be a crowd-pleaser, but when it comes to audience satisfaction, it’s tough to beat Snoop Dogg. His opening Godfather-esque video montage pretty much tells you all you need to know: He doesn’t take himself too seriously, but he has had the career longevity that make it totally appropriate to show off.
Dressed in a black and white tracksuit with bling visible in the farthest corners of Welsh-Ryan, Snoop didn’t need any of the three hype men that accompanied him. Not just because his voice came in loud and clear as he delivered his lines, but because Snoop’s role on stage partially is that of a hype man. Sure, he packs in the hits, but just as crucial to his sets are the call and response workouts. “When I say, ‘Hell,’ you say, ‘Yeah!’” exercises aren’t just filler — he just knows how to work a crowd.
Compared to Cudi, Snoop’s performances work better in a setting like Welsh-Ryan because what makes a Snoop Dogg concert successful for wide audiences is how little knowledge of his material is actually required to feel like you know what’s going on. Even if you’ve never heard “Gin and Juice” before, it has been referenced in pop culture so much that when Katy Perry makes a nod to it in her Snoop collaboration “California Gurls,” it’s (hopefully) not the first time you've heard it. And now that “With my mind on my money and my money on my mind” is a common mantra in hip hop, there’s a familiarity to the 1993 hit — even, as Snoop pointed out, for freshmen born in 1992.
Northwestern students may have had an easier time singing along to some of Snoop’s newer material, including “Sensual Seduction,” and the Akon jam “I Wanna Love You.” But judging by crowd response, his double-whammy of a brief “Jump Around” cover and his last big hit “Drop It Like It’s Hot” shows he excels at balancing the old and the new — something Cudi is understandably still working on. Let’s just hope Snoop makes good on his promise to return.
“This ain’t the last time you’ll see my face,” he told the crowd the end of his set. “I will be back to Northwestern University.”