Dallas "I'm a 28-year-old self-made millionaire," said Lil Wayne, by way of introduction Saturday night. (He also allowed, jokingly, that he was "an a------.")
He went on, using colorful language too spicy to recount here, to explain he could have anything he wanted any time he wanted, so why would he lie about how much he appreciated his audience? Funny, but I would've thought an engaged, compelling performance for a clearly riveted crowd might've demonstrated that love more clearly.
The Dallas stop of Lil Wayne's "I Am Still Music" tour at Gexa Energy Pavilion stood in stark contrast to the last time I saw him (at the American Airlines Center in 2008, as part of his "I Am Music" tour supporting the dynamite Tha Carter III). Three years ago, Wayne, still regularly loaded on weed and cough syrup, delivered a dizzyingly tight turn as the capstone to an evening that often felt like a runaway circus -- in a good way. Now, clean and sober and a veteran of an eight-month stint at Rikers Island, Lil Wayne appeared to content to go through the motions in support of his lacking new album, Tha Carter IV.
Again, the nearly sold-out crowd, which built up an appreciable head of steam listening to classic Lil Wayne tracks over the house PA prior to his arrival onstage, was hanging on the heavily tattooed rapper's every utterance, however mundane or profane (or, more often, both). But Wayne only occasionally met them halfway. Most of his brief time onstage -- his set ran about 85 minutes, not counting his three-minute "costume change" -- was spent jumping around, or riding his skateboard across the back of the stage, near the live quartet of musicians he brought with him.
It was a peculiar sight, this self-made millionaire just riding his deck while others did the work. Staples like A Milli would briefly snap him out of his disinterest, but even tracks like Mrs. Officer were delivered with a minimum of effort. A few guests were sprinkled throughout the night -- Young Money vocalist Shanell and rapper Mack Maine, among others -- but the focus was largely on Lil Wayne. (It was, perhaps, a too-heavily loaded bill: Five acts, including Keri Hilson and Rick Ross, had performed before Wayne arrived.) Yet, he rarely seemed as locked in as he was three years ago.
A lot has changed for the rapper and, perhaps, the court-ordered sobriety doesn't necessarily agree with him. The loopy risk-taking of his early years, pre-legal problems, felt as though it had been excised. While Wayne is still capable of a left-field couplet, as evidenced by the brilliant 6 Foot 7 Foot, those moments appear to be fewer and farther between. Now, he's more preoccupied with conspicuous consumption, as are many of his contemporaries, but that unique perspective has gone missing. It's true that he can have anything he wants, but I'd wager what he prizes most remains aggravatingly out of reach.