Sun Life Stadium
September 3, 2011
Better Than: Being president of Haiti. Or at least, that's what Wyclef tells himself.
The last Super Saturday concert I went to after a Florida Marlins game at Sun Life Stadium, the lead singer of KC and The Sunshine Band pulled out his best impression of Rush Limbaugh being forced to do karaoke at a nephew's Bar Mitzvah.
After Saturday's soggy contest against the Philadelphia Phillies was delayed two hours, I didn't exactly have high hopes for Wyclef Jean's post-game gig.
But if the former Fugee, dubious philanthropist, and wannabe president was supposed to phone this one in with a few songs from his upcoming album and then return to an apartment that one only imagines is plastered with oil paintings of himself gloriously blasting on a vuvuzela in front of a Haitian flag, he didn't get the memo.
Because of constant drizzle, the concert was moved from its usual field position to the dreaded Gate F, a concrete outdoor nook under an overhang. Most fans were cordoned behind metal barricades, with a loose crowd allowed close access to a stage.
These no-frill environs seemed to make Wyclef want to channel his inner 8 Mile -- despite being introduced on stage by a guy named DJ Petey -- launching into a frenetic and intimate, if kind of comically self-important, show that saw him running into the crowd and playing a guitar behind his head.
We also learned that Wyclef still misses the Fugees. Backed by a nine-person band including an effervescent back-up singer, Wyclef started the show with his verse from "Ready or Not". At another point -- before jumping into "Fu-Gee-La" -- he informed us: "Lauryn Hill is right now at Rock the Bells in New York," which seemed a little strange considering that Lauryn Hill probably wasn't busy pinpointing Wyclef's location that night.
A toothy and lithe belly dancer stole the show from Wyclef during his solo rendition of that Shakira staple "Hips Don't Lie." He perfomed a remix of Lil Wayne's "A Milli." ("By the time I'm 60, I'm a see a trillion/And I'm a give it all back to the Haitian children.") He brought out his little sister Melky Jean to belt out Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come", and yeah, she packed a lot of soul into that lament: "I was born by the river..."
Wyclef also romped through "Sweetest Girl" -- with the hook "I'ma tell you like Wu told me/Cash rules everything around me" -- which was originally recorded with Akon and Lil Wayne. He gave a context-less shoutout to Busta Rhymes. He brought his friend Mecca aka Grimo -- don't you hate rappers who have aka as part of their name? -- up on stage to rhyme. And at another point, he searched out a wannabe emcee ("Part the sea!" he declared) in the crowd to freestyle.
When the young rapper had a lackluster first attempt, Wyclef chided him, and the kid seemed incited, ending a second string of off-the-dome rhymes with: "Who asked you, Wyclef?"
If it sounds like a hell of a schizophrenic set, it felt like one too. With all the shout-outs and homages and phantom collaborations, Wyclef -- who made several references to his presidential bid -- was more of a diplomat than a musician.
The surprisingly long show ended, of course, with Wyclef playing "Star Spangled Banner" on his electric guitar.
A little silly? Yeah. But he gave us a true show instead of going through the motions and climbing into a chaffeured SUV, so we owe him some gratitude for that.
Wyclef Jean's Setlist
*Best we could tell
-"Ready or Not"
-"Hips Don't Lie"
-"A Change Is Gonna Come"
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-"Sweetest Girl (Dollar Girl)"
-"The Star-Spangled Banner"