Cypress Hill @ Metro City, Perth (29/09/10)

Metro City probably hasn’t seen so many baggy jeans and oversized t-shirts since 1999. But the night was young, and there was an unusual smell in the air, as every gangsta worth his do-rag packed into the concert club for Cypress Hill’s long awaited return to Perth.

Kicking off the night’s proceedings were Sydney hip-hoppers Spit Syndicate. The duo were super tight and chock full of energy, but did have a little trouble early on getting the crowd pumped up. But not through lack of trying – particularly with the tired hip-hop cliché “Everybody say “heyyyyy!” Everybody say “hoooo!” Now scream!” The Syndicate boys are certainly a talented pair, but they just aren’t yet big enough to pull off the (often lame) audience call and response routine.

Pretty Girls Make Graves was followed by a round of razor sharp freestyle; bare as bones without any musical backing. It successfully lifted the atmosphere in the club, probably because punters felt like there were in a scene straight out of the shocking Eminem film, 8 Mile. An obvious choice for Spit Syndicate’s set closer, massive hit Starry Eyed was bucket loads of fun and perfectly delivered. A finely tuned ear might have been able to catch hint of a vocal backing track…was there one or wasn’t there? Regardless, Spit Syndicate’s brand of hip-hop is a neat blend of the American and Australian styles, and is delivered with polish.

As all the big names do, Cypress Hill took their sweet time arriving on the stage. Roadies (who, incidentally, looked like washed up versions of Ice Cube) were doing not very much at all, standing around on a stage completely decked out in Cypress Hill promotional merch. But, eventually, the lights went down and, to the delighted roar from the crowd, a pair of UV luminescent shoelaces walked on stage. Those shoelaces were tied to the sneakers of B-Real as he started up the show opener Get ‘Em Up. Slowly but surely, he was joined by the down and dirty, epileptic dance styling of Sen Dog. These two know how to make an entrance, that’s for sure.

B-Real’s distinctive vocals pack a much bigger punch live than they do on a studio record. Nasal and sharp, it’s almost as if you are really hearing him rap for the very first time; which is unusual for someone whose incredibly successful career stretches back to 1989. As for Sen Dog, “pocket rocket” isn’t an accurate term, and certainly doesn’t do justice to the energy explosion that he is on stage. He had girls in the nosebleed section screeching to him, arms outstretched, from the very moment he stepped under the lights.

You will not find anyone in the music industry with more character than these two. No matter what genre, Cypress Hill will outdo them in style. From the strobe lights perfectly timed to the gun shots in Shoot ‘Em Up, to Sen Dog’s samba (of sorts) – their performance quality is second-to-none. Some may think that these two hoodlums don’t take their business seriously, what with all the smoke spiralling up from centre stage. But to think that they are flippant about their performances would be a real mistake. Dousing the stage in green floodlights for Dr Greenthumb was a nice touch, and the Chaplin-esque comedy routine in Hits From The Bong was absolute genius, perfectly timed and evidence of how much effort has gone into their Rise Up tour.

Accompanying the Hill boys at the turntables, DJ Julio G is kind of a big deal in California. And it’s easy to see why. In the classic DJ-vs-percussionist face-off, Julio G matched Eric Bobo beat for beat. With Bobo being touted as the “man with the fastest hands”, the musical clash was frenetic and fantastic – yet somehow still managing to be technically perfect. Each was the perfect foil for the other, and it was impossible to call a winner for either side of the battle. Cypress Hill are big enough players in the hip-hop world to collaborate with whoever the hell they want, and both Julio G and Bobo are more than worthy of their place on the stage.

Crowd favourites stood out as Insane in the Membrane and the whole section of songs “brought to you by Mary Jane.” This included perennial sing-along I Want to Get High and, of course, I Love You Mary Jane. The atmosphere in the room was completely insane, completely electric and totally tangible. Cypress Hill were working damn hard, and the audience loved them for it. Spit Syndicate take note – you need to be as big as Cypress to be able to carry the audience response routine. And even then, it only works if you’re demanding that “When I say Cypress, you say Hill.”

There isn’t much more that can be said about Thursday night’s show. Their three song encore hit the set straight out of the ballpark, with I Ain’t Going Out Like That, Rise Up and finally Rock Superstar sending fans into chaotic, moshing fits. Superstars that they are, they simply thrived off the energy from their audience, always upping the ante as energy levels reach the stratosphere. Sen Dog trusted his body to the crowds, surfing on a sea of hands as he probably had done on every stop of the tour. But, even with all the international acclaim and rockstar status, they still felt the need to trade their setlist for a “cigarette” at the end of the night. And that’s probably why these two big, scary dudes are just so damn lovable.