SAN JOSE — A rambunctious army of Run the Jewels fans gathered at City National Civic for the first of two Bay Area shows Thursday night ready to let out their anger and other built-up volatile emotions, and El-P and Killer Mike did not disappoint as they unleashed pandemonium shortly after taking the stage to Queen’s “We Are The Champions.”
Kicking things off with several new tracks from Run The Jewels 3, including “Talk To Me,” “Legend Has It” and “Call Ticketron.” The songs were delivered in succession, neither rapper speaking much between then. They were able to keep things interesting by occasionally showing off rehearsed dance moves.
The energy began to skyrocket once they dropped a couple classics from Run The Jewels 2. Sweat and spit flowed as fast as lyrics during “Blockbuster Night, Part 1.” El-P expressed his gratitude to the boisterous crowd. He relayed how before taking the stage, he asked if the show was sold out, was was told it had not. But the rapper took that answer with perspective. He and Killer Mike used to perform to only a few hundred.
“Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” and “Don’t Speak” followed the speech and flipped the switch from sentimental to rowdy. These songs may have amped the crowd up a little too much. Killer Mike temporarily stopped the show to make two women in the crowd stop arguing.
“I’m talking to these two women right here, you good?” Killer Mike said. “We don’t play that fighting shit here. Go sit yourself in the timeout corner.”
The duo continued with five more tracks off Run The Jewels 3. Following another short break, El-P cracked a joke about ending Run the Jewels to focus a solo poetry career. The joked turned into a freestyle rap. Gangsta Boo, one of the show’s openers, came back out to play dirty love song “Love Again (Akinyele Back).” This turned out to be one of the wilder scenes of the night, with the artist twerking for concertgoers.
RTJ turned back the clock with “Lie, Cheat, Steal” and “Early,” and finally, dedicated “Run the Jewels” to their loyal fans who followed the duo from the outset. Killer Mike and El-P illustrated how much they’ve grown together since starting RTJ back in 2013.
Killer Mike turned serious then, and for the second time of the night, mentioned an old friend, a tattoo artist named Cory, who passed away the previous year, and dedicated the main set closer “Down” to Cory.
“If you have a friend struggling with addiction, make sure you call them and tell them they are loved,” Killer Mike said.
The concert had several openers. DJ The Gaslamp Killer showed off his extremely diverse taste in music with a 45-minute set of classic hip-hop (which included a mash-up with video game music), bass-heavy remixes and tunes from Iran and Turkey. He also paid respects to the West Coast with “Hellifornia” by Gesaffelstein and “Still Dre” by Dr. Dre. As he performed, he glided around the stage and danced like no one was watching.
A flurry of RTJ’s friends also performed, including Nick Hook. The New York native, who co-produced the first Run The Jewels album, also dedicated his performance to two friends who died recently.