The DJ was almost invisible to the audience members, who were anxiously awaiting the arrival of De La Soul.
But the crowd members failed to realize that this stocky gentleman was in fact Maseo, one-third of the legendary hip-hop trio that attempted, ultimately in vain, to entertain them. As the lights dimmed, he asked, "I want to know how many of y'all have been down with De La since Three Feet High and Rising?"
A few hands stretched skyward, and a muffled cheer stuttered up from the crowd to acknowledge the group's first album, released way back in 1989, but the average response was one of feigned recognition over inner puzzlement. The process continued as Maseo moved onward through the list of De La albums, until he got to Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump, the group's latest release, after which a great roar leapt from the audience.
The crowd might have thought its response appropriate, since few identified Maseo. But for the performers, it must have been sad to limit the show to the 16 songs the crowd would recognize.
And so the concert began, as Posdnous and Dave, a.k.a. Plug One and Plug Two, respectively, took the stage, trying to incite a call-and-response from the crowd.
While there was call, there was little response, so Dave and Pos invited the crowd to get out of its seats and push to the front of the auditorium. As they tried to pump the crowd up through two old-school tracks -- Pos insisting that his side of the room was the live side, Dave insisting that the other side was much more live -- the vibe never strayed far from "dead."
And so the night went, Dave, Maseo and Pos smiling and grinning their way across the stage, while a nearly comatose crowd semi-swayed to whatever rhythm sustained its attention.
Sadly, they missed what could have been a great show. De La's music is inherently fun, from the carefree feel of their smash "Ooh!" to the old-school "A Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays.'"
Nevertheless, around 9:30 p.m. -- one short hour after the show began -- Maseo grabbed the mic, thanked Duke for hosting them and scurried offstage until the encore. But there was no encore.