Recording information: The House Of Blues, Los Angeles, CA.
The 2005 release of Live at the House of Blues is nothing to get excited about, but at least it's a legitimate 2Pac release. Well, sort of. It's legitimate in the sense that it is what it's billed as -- a live recording of 2Pac's July 4, 1996, performance at the House of Blues on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles -- though it's kind of a scam, too, because 2Pac's performance is unfortunately abbreviated at only nine songs. You see, he and the Outlawz were the opening act that night, with Snoop Dogg and tha Dogg Pound headlining. (2Pac does come out for the encore, however, joining Snoop for a performance of "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted.") The packaging of Live at the House of Blues, like oh so many posthumous 2Pac releases, is shrewdly misleading. Judging from the cover of the album, you'd think Snoop and tha Dogg Pound were guests here, not vice versa. Oh well, such scamming has become par for the course with 2Pac releases, so just let it be. In regard to the performance itself, it's one of the best 2Pac live performance out there, which is good news for collectors. That said, it's still lousy. For one, the sound quality is good to poor, especially the beats, which are low in the mix. (This sounds like an audience recording.) For two, the Outlawz are very much unwelcome here. These guys detract much more than they add to the performance, always rapping, er, shouting along with, er, over 2Pac when they'd be better off keeping their mouths shut and letting the man work his magic. And for three, hardcore rap like this just doesn't translate well to a live context. It just sounds like a riot, with a lot of amped-up dudes shouting raps over muffled music while the audience roars with unchecked approval. On the bright side, 2Pac does launch a tirade against Nas here, which is pretty curious. The song is called "Troublesome," and it's a long, bitter rap over the beat to "If I Ruled the World." Then comes "Hit 'Em Up," which only furthers the tirade. In the end, if you feel inspired to check this recording out, you're recommended to watch the DVD rather than listen to the CD, because this performance seems more like a spectacle than a musical event. But don't bother doing so unless you're really feeling driven. As with the 2Pac Live release from Death Row a year earlier, Live at the House of Blues taints 2Pac's legacy more than it aids it. It's just an ugly performance, plain and simple, one that furthers the myth of 2Pac as a belligerent, death-wishing thug, certainly not the saintly ghetto poet that many folks would prefer to remember him as. ~ Jason Birchmeier