Sunday, March 01, 2009

Ring the Bell…School’s In, Sucker/Yo Vanilla, Kick it One (More) Time, Boyyy

MC Hammer/Vanilla Ice

McKay Events Center
February 27

MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice. Together again. The best part of the one-night-only event was not having any idea what was going to happen. Would it be great? Would it be awful? Would it matter?

I headed down to the show with my buddy Rich. Of course he’d prepared a mix for the 30 minute trip from Salt Lake to Orem, consisting of tracks from both MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice’s greatest hits albums—he’d downloaded them the night before. He said he’d also watched the “2 Legit to Quit” video about a dozen times in the last 24 hours and was thoroughly convinced that MC Hammer was, in fact, “blessed with two hype feet.”

Rich’s excitement was palpable. This struck me as curious, seeing that he is only 26 (which would have made him seven when “Ice, Ice Baby” went #1). He had an explanation. “I remember playing kick the can or something on our street and hearing my friend say, ‘Slice like a ninja, cut like a razorblade.’ It was the coolest thing I had ever heard.”And that’s when he became a Vanilla Ice fan for life.

I would guess the majority of the 8,000+ people in attendance (most of which were in the 18-22 range) were also trying to grab a hold of some sort of intangible nostalgia. Or maybe they were intrigued by the novelty of two one-time pop icons sharing the stage together for the first time in nearly two decades. Maybe they just wanted an excuse to wear neon t-shirts and makeshift Hammer pants.

Go White Boy, Go

By the time Vanilla began his set, the crowd had already been waiting for three hours. The second Mr. Van Winkle entered the stage (through a 10-foot blowup Grim Reaper) and began spewing lyrics, the delay was immediately forgotten.

Backed by a drummer, DJ, and a dancer dressed in a Santa Costume and clown mask, the Ice Man began his set one of his newer tracks. Enormous applause. He moved on to another new track. Applause. When he began the third new (a.k.a virtually unknown) song, the crowd’s goodwill had just about run out.

And that’s when he finally took it back to the old school. When he shouted the lyrics to “Ice, Ice Baby,” it was like he was being backed by a 7,000 person choir. (Take that, Mo’ Tab!) He invited Hammer on stage to smile and wave during “Play that Funky Music White Boy” and then rocked through “The Ninja Rap” and “Stop that Train.”

For Vanilla Ice, this show wasn’t some grand comeback and it certainly wasn’t 1990. It was pretty much his average 2009 rock show, with loose interpretations of a few old songs thrown in. But he had a great time, the crowd had a great time and we all got to yell “Go ninja, go ninja, go ninja, GO!” together. What more could we ask for?

Turn This Mutha Out

Hammer’s approach was the complete opposite. It was tight and it was all business. The only piece of equipment on stage was his microphone; he and his posse needed the space to do what they do best—dance. Hammer’s still got the moves and, most importantly, the pants.

While Ice’s performance was about emotion, Hammer’s was about entertainment. The former rapper/current Christian minister pop-‘n-locked his way through all of his greatest hits, each with its own choreographed dance. (One of the dozen or so teenage dancers was his 14-year-old son, who certainly inherited his dad’s skills.) Hammer used his soundtrack hit, “Addam’s Family Groove” to let each dancer show off their solo skills. While this was cool, with the huge age between artist and dancer, it felt like it should have been called “The Hammer & Kids Show.”

The highlights were obvious: doing the “2 Legit” hand gestures, singing along to “You got to pray just to make it today” and watching Hammer do the typewriter with 200 fans shoved onto the stage with him. When it comes to performers, Hammer is the real deal.

Was this a great show, musically? Heavens no. Was it one for the memory book? Hell yes.

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