Fans of L.A. hip-hop crew Jurassic 5 probably didn't realize the group was celebrating their 20th anniversary on their current tour across the states. The fact the original sextet was reuniting for the first time since splitting in 2007 was the only reason needed to party for the group's return.
Salt Lake City has always seemed to have an affinity for the group. During the original run of the band from the late '90s into the mid-'00s, the collective made up of rappers Chali 2Na, Akil, Zaakir and Marc 7 and DJs Cut Chemist and Nu Mark played to progressively bigger audiences here in Zion, moving from Warped Tour daytime sets on small stages to clubs and then theaters like Kingsbury Hall.
The room they played at The Complex Tuesday night might be the biggest they've done yet in SLC, and they needed every inch of the space for the folks nearly filling the place for the Word of Mouth tour that also featured Dilated Peoples, Beat Junkies and MC Supernatural--a rerun of sort of a 2000 tour that also stopped in Utah.
The energy of the fans Tuesday was undeniable, but the cavernous space didn't do the sound any favors. A major appeal of Jurassic 5 is the vocal interplay between the four rappers, including some honest-to-God harmonizing rarely heard in their peers, but much of the vocal dexterity on display on stage was lost in the sound mix.
That was definitely a bummer, but the fans knew the words to old favorites like "After School Special," "Quality Control" and "I Am Somebody," and they chanted along in unison with the men on stage while they waved their arms and bobbed their heads to the beats dropped by Cut Chemist and Nu Mark.
As always, the two world-class turntablists were given ample opportunity to show off their skills in building some crazy sounds out of all manner of equipment. "Desk (Hip Hop History)" featured Nu Mark turning an old high school desk into a live instrument, pounding out beats on the wired metal-and-wood chair. Later, the two strapped turntables around their necks like they were guitars for a musical duel at center stage while the rappers took a break, before turning the seemingly decorative giant J5 record on stage into a massive working turntable useful for scratching.
Chali 2Na gave the Utah audience props for the enthusiasm, and it was a constant as Jurassic 5 ripped through a slew of songs, moving from one to the next quickly and rarely taking a breath between. "Concrete Schoolyard," "High Fidelity," "Freedom" and "The Influence" were all highlights, despite the booming sound often washing out the rappers' lyrics.
It was a good time despite the audio issues, and hopefully the reunion is an ongoing project for the members of Jurassic 5. I, for one, would love the chance to see them again in a venue where the sound can match the skills on stage.