NEW YORK After releasing one of the most widely praised albums of last year, you'd think the men of Outkast would take fans on a one-way trip to Stankonia on their recently launched tour.
However, there's no better way to look like a bona fide idiot than to try to predict what Outkast will do next.
When the dynamic hip-hop duo's U.S. tour wrapped up its first week with a date at the Theater at Madison Square Garden on Friday, the group's bag of tricks included nuggets from throughout its seven-year career.
"We kind of want to let people know that we had three other albums before Stankonia," the group's Dre explained after the show. "But we didn't want to go with all old songs because people wouldn't really understand them or know them. We had to mix them up. It's a little time-traveling thing."
The band's New York fans, including Sean "Puffy" Combs and Rahzel, seemed more than willing to go along for the ride. Looking like the navigator from the Parliament-Funkadelic mothership, Dre hit the stage in a glittering pink, puffy space suit and white wig, while his partner in rhyme, Big Boi, sported a far more conservative navy blue football jersey. Flanked by male dancers clad in catcher's vests and ski goggles, the duo roared out of the gate with the frenetic Stankonia gem "Gasoline Dreams" and then eased into older material for the bulk of their set. Before diving into recent cuts like "So Fresh, So Clean," "Gangsta Sh*t" and "Humble Mumble," Outkast served up an hour of vintage material, including "Wheelz of Steel," "ATLiens," "Aquemini" and "Skew It on the Bar-B."
"We kept jabbing 'em all along," Dre said of the set.
True, but the Dirty South's foremost ambassadors wouldn't leave the stage without delivering a few haymakers. Dre and Big Boi served up the stomping 1998 hit "Rosa Parks" and the recent ode to single parenthood, "Ms. Jackson," late in their set. Dre then warned, "This here's hip-hop on crack" before closing the set with a blistering rendition of "B.O.B."
Joined by backup singers, two guitarists and a DJ, the duo delivered their performance in front of a set Dre described as "the underground cavern of Stankonia," complete with stalactites and stalagmites.
It proved to be mighty hot near the earth's core, as the set also
offered a celebration of the kind of loopy sexuality that George Clinton and P-Funk made an art form. From Dre's galactic pimp attire to his set-closing "Stank you very much," Outkast's performance came on with a hot and heavy grin.
After opener Ludacris enlisted local gal Foxy Brown for a one-night- only set closer, Dirty South refugees Big Gipp, Cee-Lo, Slimm Calhoun and various members of Goodie Mob joined Dre and Big Boi throughout Outkast's headlining set.
"It's a family effort," Dre said of the show, noting that Outkast's guests will be joining them for the duration of the tour.
No doubt the friendly faces and other Southern comforts of home will make the road smoother for the group, who will be on the road through late April. However, Dre said he feels that he and Big Boi have already cleared the hump.
"The shows have been really, really good, and New York is the hardest," Dre explained. "Now New York has shown us love, so we riding out from here."