Icelantic's Winter on the Rocks, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and more at Red Rocks, 2/1/13
Neelais on stage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre during Icelantic's Winter on the Rocks 2013. Slide show: Winter on the Rocks 2013
The show got started with Neelais from Colorado. His electronica inflected hip-hop had surprisingly diverse organic elements in the mix. At the end of the set, he "covered" Talking Heads' classic hit, "Once in a Lifetime." Except that in his rendition, he extended the instrumental interlude in the middle and laid down his own able rapping.
Chuck Morris of AEG Live Rocky Mountains during Icelantic's Winter on the Rocks 2013. Slide show: Winter on the Rocks 2013
After his set, Chuck Morris came up and expressed his surprise and pleasure that a show in the dead of winter was sold out before he introduced Governor John Hickenlooper, who expressed some of his own enthusiasm for the event.
Grouch & Eligh at Red Rocks Amphitheatre during Icelantic's Winter on the Rocks. Slide show: Winter on the Rocks 2013
Coming on to stage with a sample of "In the Morning of the Magicians" by Flaming Lips playing through the sound system, the Grouch and Eligh came out to some truly earth-moving bass and rapped with a reference to the Geto Boys. These members of Living Legends clearly haven't been trapped by their origins in '90s hip-hop because there was plenty of modern hip-hop in their sound, much of which they were part of influencing, including that kind of dense lyrics and then release dynamics that likely had a big impact on Eyedea & Abilities, particularly the freeform mulch of sounds, samples and styles into a cohesive aesthetic.
Diplo on stage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre during Icelantic's Winter on the Rocks 2013. Slide show: Winter on the Rocks 2013
Next up was Major Lazer. As "Major Lazer" and Lazer's logo -- a kind of appropriation of the MTV logo with a large capital M and "lzr" in a script near the bottom right -- blinked in rapid succession of colors, a strange, electronic voice started in lower registers and then rose to a higher pitch, as the rhythm accelerated and the words, such as they were, became discernible. When the music got going it was like a shifting array of dub, moombahton and dubstep -- often really blurring the lines between all of it at points.
Major Lazer on stage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre during Icelantic's Winter on the Rocks 2013. Slide show: Winter on the Rocks 2013
Though not glitch, the vibe of the visual side of the show changed on a dime or generally had constant movement like the two video screens on each side of the back of the stage scrolling seven columns of the Major Lazer logo each in different colors. The visuals and the music changed tone, not drastically but decidedly without warning, with a tasteful pause in the action. Sometime later in the set, Major Lazer got a bunch of women on the stage to dance to "Bubble Butt."
The crowd at Red Rocks Amphitheatre during Major Lazer's set at Icelantic's Winter on the Rocks 2013. Slide show: Winter on the Rocks 2013
Apparently the performance wasn't cutting it, though, and Lazer got some people who were part of his crew to show everyone how it was done. It was more of a bounce thing than standard club dancing, and the two women set up center stage facing away, upside down and engaged in some rapid rump shaking -- which of course takes more of a physical commitment than standing there and waving your arms, swaying and moving your hips a little.
Personal Bias: I think Macklemore & Ryan Lewis aren't just another hip-hop team. They're writing music that is both respectable as music alone but which is an insightful take on the human condition without getting preachy.
Random Detail: Ran into promoter Tony Mason at the show working merch.
By the Way: The barbacoa chili that was being served at the top of the amphitheater by Chipotle was pretty good on a night like this.