In the haze of the smoke machines and blue lighting at the Crocodile, as a packed in crowd at a sold out show danced relentlessly to the bass-heavy tracks booming from the stage, we collectively celebrate one thing: brilliant songwriting. If there's one commonality between the two acts on the bill tonight - Glasgow electronic producer Hudson Mohawke and legendary Atlanta songwriter The-Dream - it's that they've both made their biggest dollar under someone else's name. For The-Dream, it's one of the countless addictive singles he's penned: Beyonce's "Single Ladies", Rihanna's "Umbrella", Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body", Ciara's "Ride", the hook for Kanye West and Jay-Z's "No Church In The Wild", Drake's best song ever "Shut It Down"... you get the point. For Hudson, it's one of the many hip-hop productions he's lent a hand to: Kanye West's "Mercy" and "Blood on the Leaves", Pusha T's "Hold On", Lil Wayne's "Lay It Down", Drake's "Contact", and many more. Both The-Dream and Hudson run in similar circles, but somehow find a way to not get full credit where it's deserved. But touring solo, we get to see both of these massive players in their purest element. For Terius Nash, that element is front and center rocking his own material, throwing down blazing R&B hook after hook and playing the pop star game that he knows like clockwork. For Ross Birchard, it's behind the tables, with not a single word to the crowd, minus a quick shout out to Rustie at the end of his set, who found himself in the hospital last week. Tonight's bill was more than a dream - it was a full blown miracle. And the way it went down, with a sold out crowd, and nearly four hours of music, I really don't think any fan could have asked for more.The-Dream finds himself in a curious predicament as of late. After spawning five LPs (one of which was the at one time free album 1977) and hits like "Shawty is da Sh*!", "Rockin' That Thang", "I Luv Your Girl", and "Love King", The-Dream ended his contract with Def Jam and looked forward to new things. He dropped the fantastic free EP Royalty: The Prequel in anticipation of Crown Jewel, a full length in the form of two distinct EPs, to be released on Capitol Records. But all was not right in the world, and Crown Jewel - much like IVPlay before it - has been delayed for an undisclosed amount of time. Any reasonable person who looked once at Nash's songwriting history would write up a contract giving him full director's cut on whatever he releases, but alas, this is, very unfortunately, not the world we live in.
In the meantime, The-Dream is reminding fans why there is truly no one better. Joining Hudson Mohawke on the tour for Lantern, The-Dream has, night after night, given Hudson a serious bar to rise to. Here tonight, Seattle's own Four Color Zack was on the tables behind The-Dream. He opened up the night with a solid 45 minutes of music, all of which was either The-Dream material that Terius had chosen not to play this evening, or music by other artists with Nash's songwriting credit tagged. Hearing it all in this form tonight was staggering. I wish there would have been a big sign above Zack that said "Just in case you missed this part, The-Dream wrote literally all of this", but thankfully, the better part of the crowd knew it without saying.
By the time Nash took the stage, the crowd was ready to explode. Screaming and cheering made him wait a solid minute before dropping the needle on "Shawty", but by the time he did, the screams were even louder. The crowd here tonight was excited to see Hudson, no doubt, but judging by the pure singalong factor, there was quite a bit of pent up demand for The-Dream to play a proper venue in Seattle (last time he was here was the UW Spring Show in May 2012, where Kendrick Lamar opened for Nash). The-Dream burned through no less than 17 songs, then dropped the mic and left everyone speechless. Note to any artist out there ever: never let The-Dream open for you. There is literally no way you'll rise above whatever he just threw down.
Despite the above, boy did Hudson Mohawke try his damnedest to rise to the occasion. Earlier this year, Hudson dropped the long gestating Lantern for Warp Records, his second solo LP since 2009's Butter, and his latest since the fantastic 2014 Chimes EP that left so many jaws on the floor. Before that, Hudson was inventing hip-hop sub-genres with Montreal producer Lunice as TNGHT and changing the game completely. The evolution that has happened in the scene since TNGHT happened is monumental. Some of the change is fantastic - we see massive artists like Kanye West taking on the visceral nature of songs like "Higher Ground" to channel for messages we see like that on "Blood On The Leaves". Elsewhere, there is bastardization and lukewarm emulation. And thus, in his work since, Hudson has done everything in his power to continue reminding his audience that creativity and evolution are his namesake. We won't be seeing him backpack off of past productions anytime soon.
Don't believe me? Then how do we explain the fact that "Chimes" wasn't even a necessary piece of Hudson's setlist this evening? Sure, TNGHT track "Goooo" found its way in there somewhere, but the live instrumentation it received here tonight made it an entirely different beast. Birchard's choice of live setup for the night: himself on the tables and synthesizer, with additional help on synth and vocoder from none other than Redhinho. Then finally on the drums, we had Two Door Cinema Club's Ben Thompson. The combination of the three brought every track on Lantern to massive full scale existence. Opener "Scud Books" about killed the audience before the show even began. The three onstage were a well-oiled machine. Track after track from Lantern was just a joy to receive in this form. Each member - in their own, very introspective way - looked like they were having a ball playing alongside each other. And each as producers and engineers themselves, this had to be a fantastically fun setup to string together.
And yet, even after a solid hour of band material, this was simply not enough for a fifteen dollar ticket. Segueing with "Ryderz", the band left the stage and Birchard continued on the tables alone for another 45 minutes. No words, no explanation, no request for applause or recognition, Hudson Mohawke is a spartan behind his gear. He does his job, and he does it well. If the crowd losing their minds 10 yards in front of him doesn't tell you that story, you aren't looking. Tonight's show was an unhinged masterpiece, and I hope it means we'll see both of these two fine gentlemen returning to Seattle soon.
Hudson's Lantern is out now on Warp Records. The-Dream's Crown Jewel is hopefully out sometime soon.