When Outkast reunited at Coachella in April, reviews of the hip hop duo’s comeback performance were mixed, with critics citing a lack of theatrics and musical tightness as underwhelming. But really, the rappers couldn’t live up to critics’ unrealistic expectations, who all but anticipated a religious experience from the Atlanta duo. And while the first onstage reunion of Andre 3000 and Big Boi’s since their heated break-up would have been notable, it’s better that Outkast notched a few gigs on their belt and fully got back into the swing of things before headlining a raucous Summerfest performance last night.
The (relatively) youthful blues guitar player Gary Clarke Jr. opened the festivities, filling the Marcus Amphitheater with his raw, chugging rhythms, sultry neo-soul and harder, more arena-ready material that could give the Black Keys a run for its money. The Austin-based guitarist spent most of his stage time playing it cool and reserved, but pulled out all the flashy axe theatrics on the searing, lengthy solo that concluded set closer “Blak and Blu.” One could imagine Gary Clarke Jr. headlining Summerfest side stages for the rest of his life, but that’s only if his career takes an unexpected downward turn.
As darkness fully descended over the Summerfest Grounds, Outkast emerged onstage trapped in a cube containing the two chairs and table where Andre 3000 and Big Boi ostensibly hashed their problems out. Everything seemed cool when the two escaped from that cube, now lit with the black and white American flag from Stankonia, and dived into the infectious, crossover hit “B.O.B.” Andre 3000 appeared as goofy as ever, wearing a white wig and sunglasses with wrinkly black coveralls that displayed a Price Is Right-sized sold tag—a tongue-in-cheek reference about the group’s, or really, any, reunion tour. Big Boi played Andre’s composed foil, repping a camouflage jacket and shorts and an Atlanta Falcons cap—a staggering amount of the crowd followed suit and wore Atlanta sports jerseys, including many bearing the name Michael Vick.
Andre 3000 moved around the stage like a lunatic, but he scaled the craziness back during “She Lives In My Lap” on which he sat at the edge of the stage. Big Boi delivered a more subdued performance than Andre, although, he came out of his shell a bit on “The Way You Move” and “Ghetto Musick,” the latter of which featured a video projection of scantily clad ladies shaking their butts. The only apprehensive moments came when one Outkast member would exit the stage so the other could play their material from Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, which infamously ended up being released under the Outkast moniker even though it’s basically two solo albums.
For 90 minutes, Outkast took the audience back a decade prior with a mix of pop hits—“Rosa Parks,” “Ms. Jackson,” “So Fresh, So Clean” and “Hey Ya!”—and its early southern rap. Andre 3000 and Big Boi didn’t deliver life-altering sermons, but they sure know how to party.
Today/tomorrow’s schedule: Summerfest closes on Monday every year and there’s always someone who forgets that. Check your local nightly news programs for depressed concert goers who assumed the gates would be open. Tuesday features a 3 p.m. Miller Lite Oasis performance from Ed Kowalczyk, otherwise known as the frontman who got kicked out of Live. Nas revisits his classic rap album, Illmatic, during a 10 p.m. slot at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse. And OneRepublic headlines the Marcus Amphitheater at 7:30 p.m. with openers Mayer Hawthorne and American Authors.