A couple of weeks ago, North Carolinian Scotty McCreery took to the diamond post-game at Turner Field and in September, Southern rock stalwarts Lynyrd Skynyrd will light up the night with “Freebird” and “Sweet Home Alabama” after a Braves game.
But on Saturday night, it was a homecoming of sorts when Atlanta-bred rapper/singer/musician B.o.B. and his nine-piece band, including three backup singers, hit the hastily assembled stage – an impressive exercise to watch, actually – set up in the outfield about 30 minutes after the Braves’ loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
About 10,000 fans stuck around for the free show, plus another couple of hundred who paid $20 for a wristband allowing field access.
For an hour, the lithe B.o.B. plowed through 13 songs with the energy of a very hip aerobics instructor.
He strapped on a guitar for the opening “Don’t Let Me Fall,” his Atlanta Falcons cap – later replaced with a Braves version – tilted on his head and quickly electrified the crowd with his agile rap skills.
What’s especially cool about B.o.B. is that unlike so many of his peers, he makes an effort to craft melodic songs that are more than empty-headed lyrical assaults set to a chest-rattling thump.
That thump was present sometimes last night, such as on the straight-up rhymer “Out of My Mind.” But what has helped make B.o.B. a crossover success – he’s already earned five Grammy nominations and just released his second album last month – is a knack for applying his supple word skills to collaborations with pop maestros such as Rivers Cuomo (“Magic”), Hayley Williams (“Airplanes”) and Bruno Mars (“Nothin’ On You”).
With his sophomore album “Strange Clouds” – relentlessly hawked to the point of irritation at Saturday’s show – B.o.B. has stretched his melodic leanings even further, pairing with Taylor Swift on the see-sawing “Both of Us” and turning out a gem of a radio hit in the romantic “So Good,” both played to rapturous reception Saturday.
While there were some eye-rolling moments during the show – did he really need to wear a shirt that said “Dope Sh**” in front of a family crowd? Are we all better informed today knowing that B.o.B. wears gray Alfani boxers, a discovery made after he stripped off his shirt to bare his muscular form? – the majority of his set was a lesson in rap done well.
The light Latin rhythm behind “Never Let You Go” gave the song a jaunty edge, and the music box-like piano notes B.o.B. extracted from the keyboard he played at center stage during “Where Are You” proved his commitment to adding some sweetness to his music.
Throughout the set, B.o.B. happily bounced across the stage, slapping hands with the front row, bringing a young boy onstage to dance with him, even taking a stage dive after “Magic,” to the dismay of poor Braves mascot Homer, who was desperately trying to hand B.o.B. a personalized Braves jersey.
“It feels good to be home,” B.o.B. said early in the show. And this crowd sounded thrilled to have him back.
B.o.B. will perform at Gwinnett Center Arena at 7 p.m. July 5 with Flo Rida and fellow Atlantan Cee Lo Green.
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene