I love the man, but seeing Nas at House of Blues this week was one of the worst concert experiences I’ve ever had. The tickets claimed doors at 7:30, show at 8:30, but there was still a line around the block at 8:15. A third of the second-story mezzanine had been blocked off to form a “VIP Section,” meaning the rest of us had to cram against the railing in a space 2/3 the size of normal. If they had A/C, it wasn’t strong enough: twenty-four hundred college kids generate a lot of AXE-tinted body heat on a summer night. And Nas and Damian Marley didn’t go on until 10:45. When they did, I could see them in glimpses.
Nas gave plenty of shout outs to the recently departed Guru and covered a broad sampling of his eighteen-year career: “Represent,” “If I Ruled the World,” “Hate Me Now,” “Nas is Like,” etc. The entire venue, despite having put their hands up for peace earlier at Damian’s request, went wild for “Made You Look,” one of those delightful ironies that hip-hop often asks us to confront. Damian Marley, though a talented artist, wasn’t the one I came to see. I like the way he jams, don’t get me wrong, but the usual middle-class complaint re: hip-hop (“it all sounds the same to me! you can’t make out what they’re saying! they’re singing about violence all the time! and drugs!”) resonates for me with reggae. I checked out whenever he was alone on stage.
Reading the defenses of the draconian immigration law in Arizona, the one consistent refrain I’ve seen is that sure, illegal immigrants might not actually be killing citizens in record numbers, smuggling bombs in for al-Qaeda or costing citizens a lot of jobs that they’d otherwise be entitled to by sacred birthright. But it’s the rule of law that matters! If you live in a culture that doesn’t respect the rule of law, everything falls apart, for reasons that are never specified. I saw unimpeachable evidence of that at the Nas/Marley concert. There were three different pockets of weed smokers within spitting distance of me: furtively lighting a joint, crouching down below the crush of bodies to take two deep puffs, then passing them to anyone within arm’s reach. The security guards could smell it – you’d have to be anosmic not to – but did nothing. With such flagrant disrespect for the rule of law, I don’t need to tell you what happened next: three-hundred and fifteen people died. They were flung over balconies, rent by teeth and bludgeoned by drunken anarchy. “Oh, if only we’d cracked down harder on harmless drug use,” lamented one security guard before an Emerson sophomore kicked him in the back of the skull, blood drenching her Crocs.