N.E.R.D., Sans Chad Hugo, Get Ribald And Funky In Philly

Group energetically spanned genres of rock, funk, R&B, hip-hop, folk, soul.

PHILADELPHIA — Pharrell Williams, half of the
hip-hop production team the Neptunes
and member of the funk-rock band N.E.R.D., took a
moment to explain his musical philosophy to
the crowd at the N.E.R.D. show Saturday night.

“I dig all kinds of beats and I’ll do the f—
what I want to do,” he said,
while the crowd of approximately 900 at the Trocadero
roared in approval.

With baggy jeans, T-shirt, baseball hat and
arms full of tattoos, Williams looked more
like a skate punk than a hip-hop production don.
Musically, N.E.R.D. (an acronym for “no one
ever really dies”) energetically spanned the genres of rock, funk,
R&B, hip-hop, folk and soul.

However, one didn’t need a pocket calculator to
determine that one member of N.E.R.D. was
missing: Chad Hugo, also the other half of the
Neptunes, was not present and is not a part of
the 12-city tour.

“He’s a family man,” said Christian Twigg,
bassist for Spymob, N.E.R.D.’s
backing band.

While N.E.R.D.’s rapper Shay (that’s Sheldon Haley,
Williams’ and Hugo’s high-school pal from
Virginia Beach) made the show,
Williams was firmly the center of attention.
Despite not having the strongest of singing voices,
Williams is a charismatic stage presence
who conveyed a sense of fun while telling ribald
anecdotes and leading the audience in various
chants.

What happens when you come home and “your bad ass
babe is kissing another girl?” Williams
asked. The answer was provided in “Tape You,” from
N.E.R.D.’s album In Search Of …

The audience was pogoing, participating in a call-and-response and moshing at various
times.

Spymob aptly backed all of N.E.R.D.’s
musical excursions, pounding a funky
rhythmic base on “Stay Together,” providing a
soulful folkie shading on “Bobby James”
and finally rocking the house on the band’s hit
“Rock Star.”

“They had a lot of pure energy,” Matt Krykew,
17, of West Chester, Pennsylvania, said. “I come to a
lot of hardcore shows here and it was just about the
same.”

The show was performed revue-style with
statuesque singer Kelis, who came to
help Williams perform the song “Truth or
Dare.” Then, Kelis, a member of the
Neptunes’ Star Trak Entertainment group, had a solo turn, singing the
keyboard-driven R&B number “Popular Thug”
and the bouncy “Junkie.” Later, rapper Lee Harvey came out
to help the guys sing “Lapdance.”

N.E.R.D. also performed a new track, an uptempo
song that seemed to recall a lighter 1960s
Motown style.

Williams, who didn’t identify the song, thought it
sounded more like something from another era.

“You will bounce and dance like ‘Wake Me Up Before
You Go-Go,’ ” Williams told the
audience, referring to the bubbly 1984 Wham! hit.

For the encore, Williams performed snippets of Busta
Rhymes’ “Pass the Courvoisier, Part II” and
Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me),” both of which were
produced by the Neptunes, while wrapping
things up with N.E.R.D.’s “Run to the Sun” and
“Stay Together.”

Minneapolis’ Spymob, who also played on
N.E.R.D.’s In Search Of … album, performed a
40-minute set before supporting the headlining act. Contrary to the hard funk-rock beats
garnering much of the attention for N.E.R.D., the
four-member Spymob employed a smoother,
harmony-enhanced blue-eyed soul sound fortified
with a rock and roll foundation.
“2040” featured a spacey guitar riff and a soulful
groove, while “German Test Driver” was
pepped up by a speedy Euro-pop beat. Fun yet mature,
Spymob, who were signed to Epic in the
late ’90s but never released an album, are currently recording
an LP for the Neptunes’ Star Trak
imprint.

For more sights and stories from concerts around the world, check out MTV News Tour Reports.