Kicking off their 20th anniversary tour at North America’s most hyped, most selfie-ing festival – and doing it as the
headline act on the main stage on the opening night – does not make for a low-key return for OutKast, but low key is not in these guys’ vocabulary. Unless we’re talking about their status on the pop radar over the past decade. It’s been eight years since the release of their sixth album, ‘Idlewild’, which was ostensibly a soundtrack to the film of the same name. But lets not get into that – they’re here now and that’s nearly all that matters.
However, this is not a slick, multi-million dollar production from Andre 3000 and Big Boi. There is no Kanye portable mountain. There is no Muse-like pyro. And there certainly aren’t any ticker-tape canons and light-up wristbands, a la Coldplay. Instead, bizarrely, the first prop that appears on the sparsely decorated main stage is a simple pine table and chairs, which makes little to no sense – until Big Boi tells us later that the pair used to write and practice their raps around his auntie’s kitchen table. Cute idea, but it does also make things look like the set up for a minimalist German play from the 1960s.
Later comes a taxidermy polar bear, plonked unceremoniously in the middle of the stage, and then a white tandem bicycle with a basket arrives. It’s fair to say that vast swathes of the crowd Simply Do Not Get It, and for the next few hours Twitter is awash with conflicting opinions of the set. It’s certainly true to say that the massive crowd depletes during the hour and a half long show, on which the plug is pulled at 1am.
Physically, they’re as odd a couple as they ever were. Andre 3000’s dressed like an overgrown toddler – wearing white dungarees over a hoodie – and Big Boi is in a cammo-esque track jacket and huge medallion that makes him look like he’s been rummaging through both Flavor Flav and Napoleon’s wardrobes.
Musically, they deliver a bit of everything, opening and ending with hits and peppering the rest of the hard hip-hop heavy set with crowd pleasers. They start with a ferocious ‘B.O.B’ from 2000’s ‘Stankonia’ and later comes ‘Ms Jackson’. The duo also skip through ‘Rosa Parks’ from 1998’s Aquemini as well as ‘Roses’, ‘Ghetto Musick’
and from 2003’s mainstream breakthrough ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’. And yes, they do play ‘Hey Ya’. Janelle Monae even joins the lads onstage to perform her own ‘Tightrope’, with Big Boi relegated to guest star.
They perform a fair few songs on their own, but tonight they’re undoubtedly best when they’re onstage together, grinning and bouncing off each other during ‘Roses’ and ‘B.O.B’, but the same spark fails to catch when doing it solo.
Overall, it’s a strange start to a comeback tour of 40 festival dates, but isn’t that what we want from OutKast? A bit of weirdness in an increasingly homogenous hip-hop world? Things have changed in the 12 years since these two regularly performed live – this is an old-school show, for old-school fans – squealing teens who only know ‘Hey Ya’,
need not apply.
Now go and do your homework and get prepping for their Wireless and Bestival sets – it’ll be worth your while.