Tupac: Live at the House of Blues (2010) Blu-ray Review: Tupac and Snoop Back in ‘96

Tupac: Live at the House of Blues was recorded in 1996 just months before Tupac was fatally shot and killed. The live performance captured here showcases him at the height of his fame and he is definitely the star of this show even though he was not the headliner that night as Snoop Dogg and his Dogg Pound get the majority of the stage/screen time.  

Buy Tupac: Live at the House of Blues CD

Tupac opens the show. He comes skipping out and launches into his set, which includes “Troublesome,” “Hit ‘Em Up,” andHow Do You Want Itfeaturing K-Ci & JoJo. As usual, Pac works up the crowd, and himself, so by the set’s end, he’s shirtless and driving the ladies crazy with his muscles and that crazy smile of his. Pac’s deep, dark vocals and lyrics are peppered with jabs at his East Coast rivals. Lest we forget that 1996 was also the height of that whole West Side/East Coast feud. One can totally hear and feel the tension of that rivalry between the Death Row Records crew and Biggie (the Notorious B.I.G.) and Bad Boy Records lads as Pac mentions them negatively numerous times in his 25-minute set before he gives the stage over to Snoop and Tha Dogg Pound. 

Snoop saunters out easy and laid back compared to Tupac, starting off the remainder of the concert (and the rest of the film’s 91 minute runtime) with “Murder Was the Case” before the scantily clad dancers come out for a couple of songs followed by the appearance of Nate Dogg and the hit “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None).” Snoop’s set also includesDoggfather,” the title track from his then forthcoming album, along with the classics “Who Am I (What’s My Name) and “Gin and Juice.” Tupac is called back out to join Snoop and crew to close the night with “2 of Amerikaz Most Wantedand Pac continues to make more negative remarks about Biggie in a closing rant. One can clearly see that Tupac is fired up and the dominant personality wandering that stage.

The whole crew was on point this night. Snoop and Pac make a good team and their different lyrical styles, flow, and energy levels make a good contrast while taking absolutely nothing away from the overall show. Another major contrast is the sound of the two sets. Tupac doesn’t have his own DJ, his beats are pre-recorded as he raps over them live, which pushes his voice out front and the beats are very subdued, but Pac’s high energy is what highlights this performance. Snoop’s set on the other hand has his boy, DJ Pooh, to lay down beats and the sound is more pronounced and clear.

Bonus features are five music videos (27 min.) that include “California Love” (Remix), so not the Mad Max version we’re all used to; “To Live and Die in LA;” “Hit ‘em Up, How Do You Want It” (Concert version) where we see clips of actual Tupac shows; andI Ain’t Mad at Cha,” which features a young Bokeen Woodbine. In these videos we see Tupac’s charisma in full effect as he shines in front of the camera showing off his acting chops and flashing that mischievous smile. The Blu-ray also includes a little four-page booklet with a concise look at Tupac’s life written by journalist/hip hop historian Kevin Powell. It’s a very good recap of Pac’s career from dancing with Digital Underground to the fatal shootout that took his life. 

Tupac: Live at the House of Blues was most certainly released to capitalize on the untimely death of Tupac as the majority of the concert is a Snoop Dogg show. It does however totally capture Tupac in top form, giving a sample of what a show of his own would be like. One is left to wonder what could have been if he (both sides really) had toned down the hostilities and lived life a little less thuggish? But then again, if Tupac had done that, would the rap world still revere him as much as they do today? And how would that have affected Pac’s image of himself, which included all that fire he had raging inside him? It may be time for this performance to be re-released with some real bells and whistles, maybe a few interviews? Perhaps a 30-year anniversary will appear in the coming years. One can hope. 

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Joe Garcia III

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