On November 2nd I was treated to the hardest hitting set of music I’ve ever seen as Run The Jewels delivered a blistering hour of dazzling rhymes and thumping beats. Walking out to the aptly chosen tune of “We Are the Champions”, Run The Jewels opened the set with their self-titled song, “Run the Jewels”. The crowd went berserk as El-P and Killer Mike exchanged lines at Tommy gun speed with surgical precision. Continuing their triumphant start, the duo continued with songs from their fantastic new LP, Run The Jewels 2, such as “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” and “All My Life” that fired up the crowd in astonishing fashion. The album had only been out for a week and a half and yet the crowd had already memorized every word, singing along with absolute tenacity, a feat I’ve seen few artists inspire in their fans.
Other songs like “Sea Legs” and “DDFH” displayed the perfect synchronicity between the two that, in turn, further incited rabid reactions from the audience. That’s the beautiful thing about Run The Jewels at the moment; they’re riding a wave of well-earned fanaticism from the music community without losing who they are. El-P is still the gruff, politically-paranoid New Yorker spitting bars dripping with vitriol and Killer Mike is still the delightful, eloquent southern-fried wonder that we’ve grown to love and watching them perform together was nothing short of hip hop paradise. Rather than dwelling in homogeneity and predictability that’s occurred in other super groups and collaborations the two built upon their strengths and quite simply enjoyed themselves. It may seem like an odd thing to highlight in a performance but it brought that extra touch to an already flawless performance that made it all the more special.
This wasn’t the first time I’d gone to see a concert in Charlottesville. I’d once traveled there to attend a Metallica concert in my early teens, enjoying prime nosebleed seats with my ever-patient father as we witnessed bombastic stage production and classics like “Enter Sandman”. It was an awe-inspiring performance that left me nothing short of entranced for its duration. For a while I’d considered that the best show I’d ever seen as Metallica was my absolute favorite band at that time (and even that’s probably an understatement). Unfortunately, years later, somewhat more musically cynical, and far less of an awkward Metallica geek I often find it harder and harder to experience that same sense of wonder when I see artists play live. However, on a smaller stage with none of the bells and whistles, Run The Jewels managed to do the impossible. They restored my inner 14 year old.