Cee Lo Green – review

Manchester Academy

It's more than a decade since Thomas Callaway, aka Cee Lo Green, left Atlanta crew Goodie Mob, but he's true to the hip-hop tradition of being late on stage. More than half an hour after his expected arrival, slow handclaps are in the house, but Cee Lo isn't. Suddenly, he walks on with arms in the air, victorious before he's played a note. In fact, such is the love and empathy for the overweight misfit kid turned supersized superstar that when he informs the crowd, "We're going to play some music tonight," people cheer so wildly you'd think they had come expecting a spot of haberdashery.

His charm has also worked on his musicians, kicking off The Lady Killer tour with a sultry all-lady band whose outfits seem to have been sprayed on. The man himself has eschewed his usual outlandish suits in favour of a T-shirt reading "John, Paul, George and Ringo", which seems something of a mission statement as the big rapper-turned-soul man mixes in guitar pop, Jimi Hendrix solos and 1960s-style psychedelic lighting. Even aged hip-hop cliches such as "Throw ya hands in the air" sound relatively sprightly in his zodiac of sound.

However, it gradually becomes apparent that a heavy cold has reduced the man mountain's usual Everest of a holler to a mere Ben Nevis, which is more apparent on the eerie, stripped-down Bodies than the Motowny party stompers Bright Lights, Bigger City and Satisfied. During Gone Daddy Gone – the 1983 Violent Femmes song he first covered as half of Gnarls Barkley – he sounds ready to expire.

More demanding Lady Killer songs such as It's OK and Old Fashioned are missing – perhaps victim to the lurgy, but the trooper isn't going to leave his two best-loved party stonkers.

Gnarl's 2006 smash Crazy creeps in in total darkness over a new bass drum intro, and there are cries of recognition as he starts singing, even minus the high notes. There's a truly outstanding moment as this year's deceptively joyous kiss-off hit Fuck You is greeted by the extraordinary sight of the crowd raising a middle finger towards the stage – in the direction of the song's errant ex, not the much-loved rapper.

Alas, just over an hour in, after only one chorus of an encore of Lou Reed's Perfect Day, that pesky bug proves a party pooper.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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