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


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


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


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


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