Rocks Off

SXSW 04 encore: Saturday showcases and more

Pharrell Williams
Pharrell Williams (Photo By Charlie Fonville)

N.E.R.D.

Austin Music Hall, Saturday, March 20 After a contemptuous nonperformance by Handsome Boy Modeling School, the audience was rightfully suspicious when N.E.R.D. arrived 55 minutes late, allowing their backing band Spymob to perform four utterly forgettable tunes first. But all was forgiven when Pharrell Williams and Shay hit the stage, putting Spymob's preponderance of chops to good use. N.E.R.D. combines all that's affirmative about mainstream rock and hip-hop to build songs potent enough to make you overlook their clinical undertones and pedantic lyrics. A thunderous, audience-riling rendition of "Thrasher" from the brand new Fly or Die was one of those fleeting magical moments best experienced in a hall rather than a club. N.E.R.D. drew heavily on 2002's In Search of ..., prompting bounce and grind respectively on "Brain" and "Run to the Sun." UK phenom Jamie Cullum joined Williams for a soulful take on Clones megahit "Frontin'," and current single "She Wants to Move" proved thick-grooved enough to propel the catchphrase, "Her ass is a spaceship I want to ride" deep into world consciousness. As finale "Lapdance" ended with a stage full of sweaty happy people, N.E.R.D. briefly quoted Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf," a historically appropriate capper to a rock show firmly ensconced in the 21st century.

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