I went to see Hollywood Holt at the El Rey last night to kick off a night of what I hoped would be exceptional music and performances. Holt definitely delivered on those expectations, but in doing so, he shined over the acts that followed.
Holt came out aggressive and demanding that the crowd participate. After running out to what he felt like were only a few cheers, he barked at the crowd, told them there response was not good enough, and retreated backstage to enter again. As he took the stage a second time, a small roar filled the constantly growing crowd and Holt was ready to harness that energy.
He is active, animated, charismatic and even has a sense of humor on stage. He is so good at working the crowd as a rapper and charmer that he does not even need a hypeman; his own swagger carries the performance. He thinks he is fresh, he is not camera shy and he is a handsome looking man. If Kanye West can somehow become handsome in the eyes of consumers, Hollywood Holt definitely will be. I wouldn’t crown him as the next rapper of the moment just yet, but he has a lot going for him….
The animated performance and personality, the ability to work the crowd between songs and get them participating in songs they don’t even know, the chemistry between him and his DJ, his great diction/enunciation in live performance and his general swagger all are necessary ingredients to a successful touring career as a rapper. If Hollywood Holt continues wrecking crowds like he did last night, it is only a matter of time before he is a household name.
Holt’s performance overshadowed both Chester French and Lady Sovereign. While neither turned in a bad performance, Chester French just does not look as comfortable on stage as you would’ve liked to see. He plays some of his bangers and more popular songs, and girls close to the stage get excited, but something seems slightly off. The band was decent, but never seemed to have great chemistry. The way Chester moves on stage he doesn’t look like he is having the best time (it is possible that Chester just is not a very good dancer) and he just didn’t have the charisma that Hollywood Holt did. All in all I left Chester’s performance thinking I much prefer Chester French on record then in person. Perhaps it was just an off night for the band, perhaps Chester French is just now getting his live performance down and there is significant room for improvement, but if his performance last night is indicative of what his performances will be like in the future then, unless you like poorly executed live pop or you like seeing Archie Bunker look-alikes, I’m not suggesting people go see him.
Lady Sovereign headlined the show. The set arrangement was simple and typical for a rapper of Sovereign’s stature; she had DJ Annalyze with her as well as a drummer. Sovereign worked the crowd from side to side spitting her laid back grimy European flow and she captured the crowd in the beginning. She played a few bangers that people would want to hear, but as the show wore on and Sovereign did not switch her style much or engage the crowd often, the show seemed to get repetitive. All in all, her performance was decent – but nothing to write more than one paragraph about.
If I could do it all over again, I’d put Holt at the top of the bill. He has officially arrived and he is awesome.