Idle Warship at 2720 Cherokee: Review

Talib Kweli and Res are Idle Warship. - Mel D. Cole/
Mel D. Cole/
Talib Kweli and Res are Idle Warship.

Idle Warship | SoundClash 2720 Cherokee February 15, 2012

Since setting up shop in the burgeoning Cherokee Street Art District in 2009, 2720 has made a name for itself in the national club scene as one of the top venues for street-inspired dance music. Last night's performance with Talib Kweli in Idle Warship was one of the venue's biggest names to date. Both 2720 and the audience grappled with a talented vocalist, quasi-celebrity status, and a band with an identity crisis.

Showcasing some of the brightest talent in St. Louis' hip-hop DJ community, SoundClash kicked off the evening. Known as the street-inspired sound collage project of DJ Needles, 18andCounting (Stan Chisholm) and frequent collaborator Black Spade, SoundClash blended a feverish live mix of hyper-dub, hip-hop, neo-soul, and electro bounce. A hometown hero, DJ Needles remains the undisputed mix master of St. Louis, not just for his technical skills but also for his tastefully rich song selection. Immediately locked in, he and Chisholm weaved in between a number of downbeat tracks, stacking the likes of Debarge's "I Like It" next to remixes of Tyler The Creator's "Yonkers," M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes," and Run DMC's "My Adidas." SoundClash's organic mishmash can stylistically turn on a dime, taking soulful instrumentals into Childish Gambino, SBTRKT, and even local top dog Rockwell Knuckles. But the majority of the crowd sadly seemed to pass them off as "just another group of DJs." It was unfortunate to see such disrespect.

Shortly after 11 p.m., Idle Warship hit the stage with outside smokers lucky enough to catch Mr. Kweli casually walk across Cherokee Street and into 2720. With an intro from neo-soul singer Res, the band launched into "Enemy," the first track off last year's Habits of the Heart. Amped and ready, Kweli hit the stage mid-song, flashing a charismatic smile as he blasted into his first verse. Before quickly addressing the touring sound guy over an issue with the monitors, Kweli eagerly greeted the audience asking "How y'all feeling? Tonight, we're gonna make you dance, we're gonna make you party, and we're gonna make you think."

Kweli propelled into a three-plus minute acapella, captivating the audience. Clearly they were here to catch a glimpse of his magic, and deliver it he did. Kweli's didactic display of lyrical wielding is so natural it's inhuman. Following his stunning vocal barrage, Res led the band with a vocal upheaval as they jammed into "Steady," borrowing the keyboard lead from Corey Hart's "Sunglasses at Night." In a set comprising the majority of the tracks from its debut album, Idle Warship grooved in and out of upbeat hip-hop and oddly placed pop songs.

And then there it was -- blasting from the speakers. What was this song? couldn't be. It was! Idle Warship covering -- THE STOOGES?! Fueled by a punk rock energy, Kweli unleashed a raw version of the classic, "Search and Destroy," complete with Res banging away on the drummer's crash cymbal.

Immediately following this vulgar display of variety, Res took over with her vocals. She addressed the audience, reaching out and saying, "You know this song. You don't know you know it, but you've heard it before." It was happening. It was actually happening. The band was performing a beautiful rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams," leaving audience members completely ecstatic and others at a complete loss. What in the hell was happening here?

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