It wouldn’t have been surprising if DMX had taken it easy Thursday night at Upstate Concert Hall.
His prime earning years and relevancy as an artist are long behind him. He spent essentially all of 2018 behind bars for tax fraud and was ordered to pay a couple million dollars in restitution. Nestled between sold-out shows in Boston and New York City, the also sold-out Upstate Concert Hall Show could have served as an easy payday before hitting up bigger, more lucrative markets.
But it wasn’t.
For about an hour DMX went hard, offering up a slew of cuts from his 1998-2003 glory days. His trademark growl intact, DMX was sharp throughout his set, whether he was working through hit singles or propositioning the female fans close to the stage.
After his DJ spun tracks for two-plus hours, DMX took to the stage shortly before 10:30 p.m. He got down to business immediately, pushing through “Who We Be” and the crowd-pleasing “One More Road to Cross.” After telling the fans that their love meant more to him than any woman he’s ever fornicated with, DMX busted out “Ruff Ryders Anthem.” He cut a compelling figure on stage, running back and forth and jumping while he rapped. If not for the gray beard and the slight paunch hidden under a sweat-soaked yellow t-shirt, watching the performance didn’t feel significantly different than seeing him on MTV when the tune first dropped 21 years ago.
While at no point was the energy flagging, DMX seemed to become more invigorated as the show went on. Between songs he was lecherous, telling a female fan that he doubted she was over the age of 18, asking to see her ID and noting what his plans for her would be if she was in fact a legal adult. During “What’s My Name” and “Where the Hood At” he was physically animated, bobbing back and forth, climbing on top of equipment, arms constantly in motion. On both tracks, when DMX engaged folks to say his name or encouraged them to get involved, the audience was more than willing to oblige.
“Party Up (Up in Here)” was arguably the biggest hit with the fans, a large segment of the audience rapping along with each line. After this song wrapped up, DMX waxed religious.
When:8:00 p.m., Thursday
Where: Upstate Concert Hall, 1208 NY-146, Clifton Park
Length: DMX, 59 minutes
Highlights: “Get at me Dog,” “What’s My Name,” Where the Hood At,” “Party Up”
The crowd: sold out and enthusiastic
Since 2009, DMX has pursued preaching. Just a few weeks ago he delivered a sermon at one of Kanye West’s outdoor Sunday Services. DMX dedicated “Slippin'” to anyone who has ever struggled in life and fallen on hard times, noting that God will always be there to pick you back up.
He ended the evening with “Prayer,” an a cappella track off his debut album “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot.” It’s a literal prayer where DMX throws himself at the God, seeking mercy for and guidance through the many trials and tribulations the devil has thrown his way. Upon concluding the prayer, DMX said “Amen,” threw his arms up in the air in the “X” symbol and called it a night.
It was an abrupt, slightly surreal end to the set, but it didn’t seem to faze anyone. Neither did the fact that DMX’s 59-minute set was preceded by hours of house music. And while it’s worth noting that DMX’s time on-stage comprised less than a third of the entire evening, he was solid and displayed a vigor indicating that despite his legal troubles, despite his personal crises, despite no longer being the commercial juggernaut he was in the beginning of the millennium, DMX is still an emcee capable of delivering a quality performance.