REVIEW: Lupe Fiasco celebrates ‘Food & Liquor’ in return to the stage at The Warfield

Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco performs at The Warfield in San Francisco on Nov. 19, 2021. Derek Tobias/STAFF.

SAN FRANCISCO — Lupe Fiasco made a triumphant return to the Bay Area on Friday in a show that celebrated his iconic debut album, Food & Liquor.

Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco.

Taking the stage with his backing band, Lupe received a warm welcome from excited fans who packed in shoulder to shoulder at the Warfield. He spoke about how much he missed performing, finding that his return to the stage made for a fitting return to his roots and his first album, which he performed in full.

He set a steady tone for the ret off the night with opening track “Real” as fans chanted along with the chorus and waved their hands along with the swinging delivery of his vocals. The bombastic followup, “Just Might Be OK,” may have felt equally cathartic to him as to the others in the room, consider how very un-OK the last two years have been.

Lupe Fiasco took the time to then commemorate the memory of legendary San Francisco skateboarder Keith Hufnagel, who passed away in February 2020. Lupe spoke about his admiration for Hufnagel, whom he got to know, and dedicated “Kick, Push” to his memory, even performing a variation of the chorus about him.

“I Gotcha” followed, and then “The Instrumental,” with the guitarist and bassist shredding it up on stage. Lupe made sure to direct much of the applause to his band, which was dedicated in this masterful performance. He spoke on the importance of taking leadership and initiative, particularly in a family, while also acknowledging the emotional crux of his album with “He Say She Say,” which would go on to serve as the origin story of the main character in the subsequent album, 2007’s The Cool.

Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco.

Lupe Fiasco also took time to advocate for unity on “Daydreamin’,” emphasizing the importance of bringing people from all walks of life together in order to form a thriving community. The audience enthusiastically rapped along to the macabre lyrics of “The Cool,” which recounts the tale of a gangster returning from the grave and observing his decay—which still holds up as a captivating and masterful example of storytelling in hip-hop.

Lupe caught himself mid-verse while performing the second verse a second time, bringing the track back to a more subdued and eerie standalone bass line to close out the final verse. That was followed by the deeply emotional cut “Hurt Me Soul,” which examines his complicated early relationship with rap. “Pressure” returned to the triumphant quality of “Just Might Be OK,” with ecstatic drumming and guitar riffs, as Lupe delivered his verses as well as performing Jay-Z’s, who had originally appeared on the album.

Lupe went on to examine the problematic racial and social divides commonplace in America on “American Terrorist,” a song that’s still deeply relevant in today’s discourse. After closing out his performance of “The Emperor’s Soundtrack,” he gave a little insight behind the scenes of the album’s development, and how due to early leaks, he changed the song from being the closer to being the penultimate cut; opting to include a refrain of “Kick, Push” with “Kick, Push II.”

As Lupe concluded his performance of Food & Liquor, fans clamored for an encore. He played up his hesitancy, before ultimately performing  “Superstar” from The Cool and “The Show Goes On” from 2011’s Lasers.

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