Run the Jewels Metropolis, Montreal QC, February 21
Published Feb 22, 2017If three unimpeachable albums, heaps of accolades and appearances on CNN(!) have taught us anything in the four years since Killer Mike and El-P started their magical late career run, it's that Run the Jewels can cut through bullshit like a hot knife through butter. Fittingly then, Tuesday night's (February 21) scorching performance began with a frank admission from Killer Mike: "Fuck the pleasantries; we came to fuck shit up."
Fuck shit up they did — from the opening rumbles of "Talk to Me" to the closing notes of "Down," the ATL/NYC hybrid delivered a scorched Earth performance, further solidifying their place as 2017's premier rap agit-propagandists. There really is no better chemistry in hip-hop today than the one that exists between Mike and El when they're on.
On Tuesday, they traded bars like Molotov cocktails, only pausing to allow a hungry audience to rap along. The pit seemed to grow bigger through each of the first five songs, a bulldozing run that included RTJ3 highlights "Legend Has It" and "Call Ticketron," as well as fan favourites "Blockbuster Night Pt. 1" and "Oh My Darling Don't Cry." El's Bomb Squad-meets-horror score production was juiced even beyond its normal level, with the bass raised to sternum-rattling proportions — the perfect complement to the most mayhem-raising duo since Godzilla and Mothra (really, check out the poster art).
Despite the show's relentless energy, it never lost its political centre. "Early" and "Lie, Cheat, Steal" bore a chilling new seriousness in the wake of recent events, while the raunchy sex-rap cut "Love Again (Akinyele Back)" featured a scene-stealing, sex-positive guest appearance from Gangsta Boo. When she called on the audience to chant "pussy power," it felt like a necessary respite from the testosterone-soaked universe the duo can inhabit from time to time. It also felt badass as hell.
It wasn't a perfect show. There could have been perhaps less material from the more forgettable side of RTJ3 (e.g. "Don't Get Captured") and more from the group's bulletproof self-titled debut, from which only the old warhorse of a title track was performed.
Nevertheless, we're talking about a difference between a hurricane and a tropical storm here — both are relentless. More than anything, Run the Jewels' show on Tuesday night was a thrill, proving that the duo haven't lost any of their fire even as they advance further and further into middle age. Here's hoping they can keep it up; lord knows we'll need them over the next few years.