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POP MUSIC REVIEW : 'Summer Jam' Can't Beat Heat With a Mixed Lineup

August 16, 1994|MIKE BOEHM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

IRVINE — At various junctures on Sunday during the "92.3 The Beat Summer Jam," a capacity house at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre was informed by hypesters from the sponsoring radio station, KKBT-FM, that it was witnessing either "the hottest," "the phattest," or "the baddest" concert of all time.

Taken literally, most of that hype was all too believable.

The day's oppressive heat baked the life out of everybody for nine of the rap-funk-R&B extravaganza's nearly 13 hours, leaving the audience virtually inert to some of the day's better performances. During the draining daylight hours, more people stood in line for lemonade than stood up to dance to such worthy acts as War and Tony Toni Tone.

As for being phat , which in hip-hop parlance means being both splendid and substantial, this bill was merely fat. Not even the most gluttonous music fan wants to see 24 acts in a day--especially with the many rap newcomers who may have scored radio hits but utterly lack the performing experience to go over on a major stage.

And R&B singers who croon to recorded tracks--a staple of Sunday's diet--should be told to head back to the dance clubs until they find the wherewithal for a proper show with actual musicians.

Was it really the baddest--as in worst--show of all time? If you take away the climate conditions, not really. Nobody was brilliant, but good moments came courtesy of the Isley Brothers, War, Tevin Campbell and Zapp on the R&B side, and Heavy D, Public Enemy and Coolio among the rappers.

Headliner Eazy-E was as bad as bad can be, though--according to Webster's definition, not Michael Jackson's. The usual case against gangsta rappers such as the Compton-based co-founder of N.W.A. is that they glorify violence and have brutish attitudes toward women. Never mind content, though. Eazy-E's half hour was so plodding and ill-conceived that content hardly mattered.

One moment made it almost worthwhile: When Eazy-E's main sidekick commanded the women in the house to bluntly declare their lust for the rapper, the silence spoke volumes. So did the parade of people who immediately headed for the exits, joining the exodus already well in progress. The place was nearly full when Eazy-E's set began; it was virtually empty when he finished.

*

Some critics of Public Enemy's new album have suggested that the much-praised band may be over the hill, but the group's rappers Chuck D. and Flavor Flav seemed bent on establishing that they still have their youthful vigor. The two scampered through an almost frolicsome set that was high on energy if low on the politicized agitation that made Public Enemy famous. Newcomer Coolio gave the day's best rap performance, combining near-chaotic energy and humor with substantial raps that imagined fleeting escapes from the traumas of ghetto life.

Of the real-time R&B bands, the promising young Oakland group Tony Toni Tone suffered the worst from the heat, wilting when the fans were unable to dance to the Sly-inspired music. Older and steadier, War was able to withstand the weather and the crowd's torpor and turn in a solid set of Latinized funk. The always-entertaining Zapp triumphed after nightfall, generating heat that, finally, was merely figurative.

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