Cynics and the faithful alike can be forgiven for greeting reunion tours with mild enthusiasm. And at nearly $80 a ticket (after the attendant service-charge thievery), those who passed up A Tribe Called Quest's recent performance at L.A.'s House of Blues can certainly be excused. But make no mistake — this was no nostalgia trip. Tribe's Hollywood stop on Feb. 13 was one of a handful of February dates capitalizing on the momentum of several fall and winter shows. And to answer the looming question, Tribe did indeed bring the goods.
With Queen Latifah leading the music industry through the yawn of the Grammy Awards across town, Power 106 DJ and card-carrying Beat Junkie Mr. Choc set the tone early. “I know y'all up on some 50 and The Game, and that's cool,” he explained. “But I didn't bring none of it.” Instead, Choc greased the speaker cabs with the likes of Eric B. & Rakim, Slick Rick, Gang Starr and EPMD while the dudes bobbed their Kangol'd heads and the ladies strutted in styles off the Jill Scott and Alicia Keys racks. Even indie-rocker types paid tribute in saggy, torn Levis.
Then, to the distinctive rumble of “Buggin' Out,” Tribe — now four strong with the inclusion of founding member Jarobi — took the stage and killed it. For the next hour, Tribe held Hollywood in its hands, delivering select verses and full cuts of classics such as “Scenario,” “Bonita Applebum,” “Check the Rhime” and “Award Tour.” For a group that's only recently dusted itself off after a six-year break, Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Jarobi maintain the loose and languid flow that they helped pioneer while Ali Shaheed Muhammad draws the boundaries on the turntables. In a day of hard, quantized beats with all the subtlety of a concrete jackhammer, Tribe is still a murky, late-'50s ride cymbal. And though L.A. was the territory — Phife Dawg showed love by wearing the jersey of legendary Rams running back Eric Dickerson — it was a New York night to remember, as both Mos Def and Busta Rhymes joined the fray and fanned the flames up until the show's finale.