Outkast, Roots, Lauryn Hill Close Out Smokin’ Grooves Tour

Concert's early start time leaves opener Cee-Lo with small crowd.

HOLMDEL, New Jersey — On the final night of the Smokin’ Grooves
tour, the show’s opener found himself in a familiar spot.

Cee-Lo, who toured intimate clubs with Musiq earlier this year, performed
for about the same amount of people it takes to fill up a local nightspot
Monday night. Unfortunately, the tour — which also featured Lauryn
Hill, Truth Hurts, Jurassic 5, the Roots and Outkast — was at the
17,500-capacity PNC Bank Arts Center. (Click here for photos from the show.)

“This particular run has been a challenge, man,” Cee-Lo said an hour prior
to the concert’s early 6 p.m. start time. “It’s humbling, it’s empowering
all at the same time. … Sometimes it ain’t hardly nobody out there, not
even a quarter worth of the seating. It’s like ’Damn. We never did any
venues this big as Goodie Mob.’ But I’m up for the challenge. I’m still
growing.”

As much as Cee-Lo liked to show the crowd his evolution on songs like
“Getting’ Grown,” he wasn’t afraid to give praise to his funk influences,
letting his five-piece band’s horn section power “Closet Freak.”

Truth Hurts, who’s usually next up to bat, missed Monday night’s show
because she was shooting a music video. Jurassic 5, dubbed the tour’s
sleeper hit by their tour mates, followed Cee-Lo with their old-school
stylings.

With four MCs (Marc 7even, Chali 2na, Zaakir and Akil) and two DJs (Cut
Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark), the group intertwined wordplay throughout its set,
which featured “What’s Golden” off of their upcoming Power in Numbers, due October 8.

Lauryn Hill, who switched places with the Roots, choosing an earlier stage
time for the tour, showed she can still be a ferocious MC with her hip-hop
hymns and soulful social critiques. All she needed was one mic, a chair, a
drummer and two guitars, which she alternated between.

“Lauryn, she’s the rabble-rouser,” the Roots’ ?uestlove said. “She’s
doing it without a band — she’s doing it with a guitar. A lot of her
diehard fans are thrown off and hope she would go back to doing one Fugees
song or one song off of [The Miseduction of Lauryn Hill]. … But
I’ve seen people crying [when she sings].”

For most of the tour Lauryn has been performing new material, but on Monday
she opted to give the crowd one familiar hit, opening with “X-Factor.”

“Crooked lawyers/ False indictments publicized,” she rhymed on “The Mystery
of Inequity.” She continued with a rapping sermon, hitting a guitar pluck
after every line. “It’s entertainment/ The arraignments/ The subpoenas/
High-profile gladiators in bloodthirsty arenas/ Enter the dragon/ Black
robe, crooked balance.”

Hill ended her tour run with sobering energy. “You can’t hold me in these
chains,” she sang on an untitled selection, eyes tearing up. She then warned
the audience, “If it ain’t love, leave it alone.”

The Roots were up next, taking the stage in front of a huge drawing of a
head with the brain exposed, the cover of their upcoming Phrenology.
Having to shave their show — which can usually go up to three hours
— down to 40 minutes was a bit of an undertaking for the Philly
collective, especially with guests like Cody Chestnut and Jaguar Wright
joining the fray with their roaring crooning.

The singers played second fiddle to human turntables Rahzel and Scratch,
though. They ended the Roots’ set with sound effects skits, highlighted by a
reenactment of the climactic “Empire Strikes Back” fight scene in which Luke
Skywalker clashes with Darth Vader.

As for ?uest, lead rapper Black Thought and the rest of the band, they
didn’t go unnoticed, hitting the crowd with a splattering of fan favorites
like an “Love of My Life” and an extended remix of “You Got Me.” On that
one, Thought rapped like a lounge singer, punk rocker, reggae DJ and heavy
metal headbanger, with his group flaunting its range, providing the
appropriate musical backdrops.

Outkast, with their catalog of hits, are probably one of the only hip-hop
acts who could follow the performance specialists from the City of Brotherly
Love.

“Ain’t nothing but hits,” a confident Big Boi said backstage. “No smoke or
mirrors. We just doing raw music.”

Andre 3000 took the raw motif to heart, coming out topless, wearing just a
pair of jeans and sneakers. Meanwhile, Big Boi sported a green Chicago White
Sox throwback with army fatigues and traded verses for the opener, “Gasoline
Dreams.”

“Yo, Dre, it’s so hot in here we can break out the grill,” Big Boi said,
setting up “Skew It on the Bar-B.” And as classics like “Elevators (Me and
You)” and “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” spun, Big would join their
backup dancers, the Crowd Pleasers, for some moves.

With the crowd in their hands, the duo decided to take things even higher
with their most recent hit, “The Whole World.”

“Sing aloooong,” everyone erupted, granting Dre’s wishes from his opening
few bars. “Sing alooong!”

The track’s guest star and the latest act on Outkast’s Aquemeni Records,
Killer Mike, debuted “Akshon,” the first single off his October 29 LP,
Monster.

“You ain’t never seen a big n—a move like this,” gloated the hefty Mike
after he jumped and stomped around the stage while performing his
bass-carpeted song about stirring a musical revolution.

From a musical revolution to an all-out war of beats and rhymes, Outkast
sped it up for the tour’s final song, “B.O.B.”

With the obligatory confetti still flowing through the air, Dre and Big Boi
took a moment to reflect backstage. “When we first got on Smokin’ Grooves,
it was Cypress Hill and Lauryn Hill [headlining], and we were coming on at
six in the evening, and now we close the show out,” Big Boi said. “[This
tour] has been a blessing from the man above, and we just really try to show
and prove out here. That’s a great accomplishment for Outkast.”

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