The grounds of Providence Amphitheater were transformed into a depraved playground for carefree teenagers and young adults on Thursday.
Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa, the rappers who are the co-headliners of the Merry Jane Presents the High Road Summer Tour, oversaw a marijuana-oriented music carnival. Merry Jane, a company that promotes the “cannabis lifestyle,” was co-founded by Snoop Dogg.
DJ Drama, the emcee of the festivities, celebrated the conceit that “15,000 people (were) all getting high together.” Even though the performers repeatedly encouraged members of the massive throng to imbibe in marijuana, intoxication wasn’t a prerequisite for appreciation of their performances.
Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr., the 44-year-old California native who performs as Snoop Dogg, did plenty of clowning on Thursday. But Snoop demonstrated that he remains capable of creating menacing music. Renditions of the angry new tirade “Legend” and the classic 1990s funk jam “Who Am I? (What’s My Name?)” were part of what was almost certainly Snoop’s most vital performance in Kansas City in more than a decade.
He was clearly energized by Khalifa, the Pittsburgh rapper and pop star born Cameron Jibril Thomaz in 1987. Rather than attempting to match the ferocious daring of Broadus’ best work, Khalifa is a radio-oriented rapper.
Readings of his hits including “See You Again,” “Black and Yellow” and “We Dem Boyz” ignited frenzied sing-alongs. Even though a joint was often hanging from his lips, Khalifa was far more coherent on Thursday than on his shambolic recordings.
The headliners initially took turns on stage, but their terrific chemistry later elevated their collaborations on material like the smokers’ anthem “Kush Ups” and the ebullient party song “Young, Wild & Free.”
Gimmicks like the enormous joint-shaped balloons that were tossed into the audience would seem to suggest that the concert’s execution was half-baked. Yet the fast pace and impressive production values defied hip-hop and stoner stereotypes. Pleasing performances by the R&B crooner Jhené Aiko and the gritty Southern rapper Kevin Gates failed to cause the usual interminable delays.
Casey Veggies, the fashionable Los Angeles rapper who opened the show, insisted that “I’m ’bout that action.” Although he made good on the statement during his energetic set, he lacked the formidable catalog of hits and the authoritative stage presences that bolstered the headliners’ surprisingly lucid appearances.