LIVE REVIEW: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony at the Masonic Auditorium (10.16.14)
Last Thursday, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony made their triumphant return to Cleveland with a homecoming show at the Masonic Auditorium. There’s been a few success stories from the 216, but none who’ve had quite the impact that Bone has had. Even the rap haters in Cleveland still rep the dudes from E. 99th. Besides their musical skills, Bone still garners love from it’s hometown because no matter how big they got, they never forgot their roots. They carried Cleveland with them like a badge of honor. They made it cool to be a Clevelander, and had people all across the country singing along to lyrics about our city. As a teenager in the ’90s, seeing them on MTV with Eazy-E, 2Pac, and The Notorious B.I.G. absolutely blew my mind. These five kids from East Cleveland were rubbing elbows with the hip-hop elite, topping the Billboard charts, and even snagging a Grammy. It gave us hope and pride.
Split into two parts, the show began with the quintet backed by an orchestral ensemble. It was a pretty cool concept, but one that was unfortunately marred by sound issues. The group’s beats largely overpowered the orchestra, which made it difficult to hear them at times. Luckily, the technical issues weren’t too distracting, thanks to the fact that the vocals were incredibly strong. Dressed in white suits, Krayzie, Layzie, Bizzy, Flesh, and Wish were on point at all times. When Bone first broke into the mainstream with “Thuggish Ruggish Bone,” their unique vocal style, which blends fast rapping with harmonies, was what set them apart from the rest of the pack. Watching them nail this difficult technique live was impressive. While some artists rely on a backing track in performances to make their vocals sound stronger, Bone did everything on the fly, and it sounded impeccable. This was especially evident on their smash-hit, “Tha Crossroads,” which had everyone on their feet, and one whiteboy writer loudly reciting the lyrics like a complete dork.
The second part of the show was less formal. They traded suits for t-shirts and jeans, and swapped the orchestra for a DJ. This half contained a heartfelt tribute to their mentor and N.W.A. founder, Eazy-E. They also played “Foe Tha Love Of $,” the 1995 single on which he appeared. This was followed by tributes to Biggie and Pac, which included short covers of their songs, as well as renditions of their famous collaborations with them – “Notorious Thugs” and “Thug Luv,” respectively. These legendary tracks are proof of just how important Bone is to hip-hop history. They went across the then prominent coastal divide to team up with two of the genres greatest talents, who also happened to be tangled in a deadly rivalry. Their energetic set also included fan favorites like “1st Of Tha Month,” “Mo Murder,” “East 1999,” and “Days Of Our Lives.”
The feeling in the air was palpable. The night wasn’t just a celebration of Bone and how far they’ve come. It was also a celebration of Cleveland, too. Together we’ve grown. These days, we’re no longer “the mistake by the lake.” But, even in our less desirable days, Bone was never afraid to profess their love for this city, and we’ll always be grateful to them for that. “Cleveland is the city,” indeed.
Missed the show? Check out these awesome photos from Cellar Door photographer, Judie Vegh.