July 21st, 2008 5:33 pm | by Jim Sandberg Music | Posted In: Columns, Live Cuts, Columns

Wyclef Jean at the Roseland, July 20th 2008

2666061685_741b90c553Wyclef Jean's first Portland appearance last night was nothing short of amazing, despite, actually, being pretty short.

Flags from the Caribbean and the Americas hung all around the balcony, successfully evoking Wyclef's internationalist fervor—coupled with the crowd all jumping, waving their own flags and their shirts in the air—and the show had the energy of a huge, outdoor festival...crammed into the Roseland. The night's excitement wasn't lost on the Haitian MC/singer, either—the second half of his aerobic set found a shirtless 'Clef playing the role of hypeman, completely giving up on rapping as his band rocked out at punk rock speed to rhythmic, world-music-influenced samples that would've made Diplo jealous.

After wading through the crowd and darting up to the Roseland's balcony, 'Clef perched on the edge above the crowd and announced that his high school music teacher was in attendance (?!). He then proceeded to one-up M.I.A. by walking along the balcony's railing back to the stage, firing up the crowd a TON more and concluding the set with a backflip.

The madcap pace didn't slow for the encore, which included a brief appearance from Eve (again: ?!), shouting of "TEAR THE CLUB UP!" and another backflip. Considering rap shows are often hit or miss—sometimes it's just a bunch of people yelling over a record—Wyclef wins for putting his all into an explosive, jaw-dropping performance. He's always talked about taking us to the carnival on record, but last night at the Roseland felt like we were actually there.

Wyclef JeanSpace

Photo: Taken at an earlier tour stop by a dude named Nick on Flickr.
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