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Concert Reviews:
MC Hammer and friends rock the House Party at DTE

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Saturday, July 27, 2019

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- "You didn't come for some song you barely know," Sir Mix-A-Lot said on Friday night, July 26, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre. "You came for old school!"

And that's exactly what MC Hammer's House Party was -- a three-hour trip back in time, with four Grammy Award pedigreed rappers of 80s and 90s vintage playing the hits and not much more, testifying to the staying power of the likes of "U Can't Touch This," "Gangsta's Paradise," "Baby Got Back," "Just a Friend" and more for a racially and demographically mixed crowd, more than half of whom seemed to be sporting flashing souvenir gold chains. Though visual production was modest the music carried the night as fans security, ushers and even concession stand staff danced all night long, as much to the between-set DJ mixes as to the acts themselves.

That the package drew less than half a house Friday ultimately proved inconsequential; You'd have to have looked pretty hard to find a more spirited party in the metro area that night.

None of the plays -- also including Coolio and Biz Markie -- looked quite like they did in their heyday, of course; Coolio, in fact, had just a couple of his trademark braids sticking out of the top of his white baseball cap, pipe cleaner style. But all four were still fluid with the microphone and strong with stage presence, with as much swagger on Friday night as they had when the hits were coming.

They also all shared a sense of heritage, too, with each repping departed heroes and peers -- particularly Prince, Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G., and with Coolio throwing in Aretha Franklin and James Brown.

Tight 20-minute sets worked to the benefit of the undercard acts, particularly Biz Markie, whose sweat pants fought a valiant battle with gravity during his time on stage. The still-potent Mix-A-Lot made a pointed case for himself as a more than a one-hit wonder as he and his three-man crew bumped through "Posse on Broadway" and "My Hooptie" before bringing five fans on stage to bump and grind during "Baby Got Back."

Coolio, meanwhile, stepped out with three musicians -- guitar, drums and saxophone, the latter taking a long solo at the end of "C U When U Get There." "It's All the Way Live (Now)," "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)" all packed plenty of punch, and Coolio even brought a real puncher -- boxing champion Thomas Hearns -- on stage as he began "Gangsta's Paradise."

And then it was Hammer time. Playing entirely to pre-recorded track, the Oakland, Calif. MC -- sporting an athletic-style sweatsuit with hoodie, shades and a bedazzled headband (but no parachute pants) -- showed his moves are still intact as he prowled the stage for an hour with a large corps of dancers and backup singers. The hits came in a steady flow -- "Pumps and a Bump," "Have You Seen Her" (during which he tossed roses into the crowd -- "Pray" and "Too Legit to Quit," and Hammer hit the DTE aisle for "(Hammer Hammer) They Put Me in the Mix," recalling that the song's music video was filmed at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena during the early 90s and throwing in a bit of Funkadelic's "One Nation Under a Groove."

Though he called for "Motown power" Hammer made no mention of his connection to the Detroit Pistons' Bad Boys era but he did, of course, play "U Can't Touch This," bringing scores of fans on stage for a party within a party and letting several bust their own Hammer-like moves while he cheered them on.

It was, in the end, a glorious remembrance of glory days, and pleasing proof that all these songs still work 25 and 30 years later. And if it's all still legit, why should any of these guys have to quit?

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