Snoop Dogg's tour, the Puff Puff Pass Tour, finished up its raucous excursion across the United States and Canada on Saturday night with a show at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom. The show featured Kurupt, DJ Badass, and Snoop alongside Tha Eastsidaz and Das, and was elaborately fitted with video screens, fog, and plenty of energy. Snoop Dogg, however, the once and future king of West Coast rappers and an enormous musical talent, had a commanding stage presence and tight musical style that made the rest of the night's talent pale by comparison. As a result, the rest of the show sometimes felt like a frustrating buildup to the main event.
The show began with acts by Kurupt and DJ Badass, who were both well-received though neither artist was spectacular. Kurupt delivered a standard fun and energetic "hip-hop" performance with lots of jumping around on stage, and a tight DJ on the turntables. DJ Badass, who took the stage around 8:45, was much the same except for the lack of a MC. Both performances created a sense of excitement, especially Kurupt, who yelled "shake your booty" to the audience, while doing so himself. Even so, the acts were essentially a high-energy soundtrack to the low-key socializing going on in the Aragon as the crowd began to get psyched for the main event.
After an hour of radio cuts piped through loudspeakers, the audience became antsy to hear more live talent. When the lights dimmed at 10:15, a once-decent but now poo group called Tha Liks took the stage to give a lukewarm yet passable performance. Their lyrical vocabulary included forgettable lines like "We're tha muthafuckin' Alkaholiks!" and their melodies were highly repetitive, but they did their best to keep up the crowd's energy level. They added a cute touch to their radio single "Best U Can" by bringing up preselected girls from the audience to dance onstage. Although Tha Liks are a shadow of their former selves, they at least helped make the wait for Snoop easier to bear.
By 11, everyone in the audience was beyond ready to see the star of the show. Finally, the sound of helicopters crept and the unmistakable backbeat of "Murder Was Tha Case" began to thump as Snoop strolled to the front of the stage. He was dressed to the nines in a full-length fur coat with matching hat, white suit, glitter sunglasses, and a cane; a beautiful girl escorted him and he was carrying a golden chalice. As he slowly began to drop "Murder," the crowd went wild, finally getting that release after building up anticipation for hours.
His performance was musically flawless; the songs flowed effortlessly throughout the show and he always knew how to excite the audience in between tunes. While taking a brief break between songs, one of the Eastsidaz poured some champagne into Snoop's chalice, and he sipped from it while saying "Now I want to sing a song about my favorite drink," then breaking into "Gin and Juice." Classics like "Nuthin But a G-Thang," "I Love it," and "Ladi Dadi" were performed with true gangsta-rap gusto and pizzazz. Snoop had an entourage up on stage with him, including Daz Dillinger and Tha Eastsidaz, and he even brought out a girl group named Doggy's Angels to sing a couple of songs. Snoop made it clear, however, that this was his show, whether occasionally acting as musical stage director or just straight flizzin on yo mizzil.
Snoop did seem a bit subdued, no doubt tired from touring extensively for the last several months, but he also seemed genuinely happy to be there. "When I'm in Chicago, it's like family," he called out at one point. His stage personality ranged from glorified thug, with the high-style clothes and Cristál sipping, to a more serious side. At one point, he asked the crowd to take out their lighters and observe a moment of silence for the victims of September 11. He then commented that there was one person he knew how to raise from the dead, the turntables breaking out into 2Pac Shakur's "Gangsta Party" as he shouted, "We miss you, 2Pac!" The moment was a touching combination of his rap persona and his more down-to-earth, socially aware characteristics.
At once cheeky and sincere, Snoop had the audience enthralled for the brief hour he was on stage. His tight rapping and great turntablists turned all of his classics inside out, making for a great performance. The entire crowd was singing along as he exited the stage to his classic "What's My Name?" Looking at The Puff Puff Pass Tour as a whole, the show optimally should have been Snoop and Tha Eastsidaz, paring it down to what was the only truly good performance and throwing away the filler.