“Inauspicious start” was the first phrase that came to mind when opening act The Press took the stage at the Satellite Ballroom on Thursday night. A bunch of guys hopping around, looking like they’d come straight from “The Late Night With Conan O’Brien” writers’ room and announcing enthusiastically, “We’re from New Hampshire!” was just not quite what I was expecting from a concert headlined by old school rap legend Slick Rick.
It didn’t help that the hip-hop/rock band’s first couple of songs would not have been out of place at an inspirational performance for a middle school assembly. But by the end of their set, The Press had redeemed themselves with a series of semi-improvised reggae jams, and good thing too, because they would stick around as Slick Rick’s backing band for the remainder of the show.
Slick Rick don’t cause no trouble, don’t bother nobody. Rather, he delivered a lengthy set at the Satellite Ballroom that completely lived up to his hype. Word.
Once The Press ended their set, Slick Rick’s esteemed associate, DJ Chaos, took to the turntables, spinning a medley of old school hip-hop and ’80s pop hits, and stirring the crowd into a fervor that swelled until the greatest one-eyed emcee in the world (sorry, Bushwick Bill) emerged. Slick Rick was decked out in a characteristically unique getup: striped Oxford shirt straight off The Gap’s rack, juxtaposed against four or five comically oversized medallions and other assorted bling. And of course, Slick Rick wouldn’t be Slick Rick without his signature eye patch—a silver, sequined absurdity hugging his shorn skull. The blend of old school weirdness and modern practicality that was evident in Rick’s outfit was the theme of the night.
The Ruler went through his stable of classics, including “La Di Da Di” and “Mona Lisa,” but he also spit a great freestyle and apologetically followed up one of his famously sexist songs (let’s just say it’s the one whose title almost rhymes with “Deck the Halls”) with “Teenage Love,” slightly retooled as an anthem to strong women. The show would’ve been worth it for Slick Rick’s non sequitur stage banter alone, which focused on subjects as diverse as “MadTV” and Don Imus, and produced two fake-out encores in which Rick extolled the virtues of monogamy. But the concert turned out to be worth even more: Brief though it may have been, it affirmed that, at 42, Slick Rick’s still got it, but he’s also, in his own bizarre way, grown up.