After many days of debate, I decided to go to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony last Thursday night at the Belly Up to be surrounded by all things thuggish and ruggish. I had seen them before, and they were great, but I’m getting older and I don’t go to as many shows as I used to, and hip-hop shows are not my favorite (I often think the songs sound better on the recording). I felt obliged to go, however, because it was a friend’s birthday and he had extra tickets, and getting me to attend a concert has never involved much arm twisting.

Before the main event, we had pizza and a few too many shots of tequila while listening to the classic Bone Thugs songs everyone knows and loves — “Crossroads,” “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” and “1st of the Month.” We discussed our knowledge of the classic hip-hop group, and the more serious fans listed off each member’s name from memory — Bizzy Bone, Wish Bone, Layzie Bone, Krayzie Bone and Flesh-n-Bone.

My friends and I discussed Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s rise to success from the streets of Cleveland. After forming in 1993, due to their fast-flowing raps combined with smooth harmonies, Bone Thugs created an irresistible sound comprised of singing, hooks and a streetwise swagger the likes of which have been few and far between when considering modern hip-hop. They have sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, and after all these years, they are still sought after.

Our evening was running smoothly so we headed to the Belly Up, where we caught the last few songs of the opening act while moving in close to the stage and preparing for what we paid to see.

At most Belly Up shows, the main act starts playing music about 15-20 minutes after the opener is done. But last Thursday they really wanted us to earn it, I guess, and it took more than an hour (I have heard since then that either Bone Thugs had trouble getting into town or that their DJ had misplaced his laptop and that time was spent downloading the music he needed to play). In that hour the crowd was getting irritated with anticipation, and all the street-savvy hip-hop enthusiasts were desperate for live music.

Eventually, three out of the five members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony took the stage and, after making their fans wait more than an hour, played for an hour. They played the hits the best they could, while missing Bizzy Bone and Wish Bone, and they even passed a blunt to the front row at one point. Many attendees left before the show was over, probably because it had gotten so late and they had work in the morning.

Last Thursday night was a hip-hop show and, as I have said, they are not always my favorite. They dropped a heavy beat, and the sound quality of the Belly Up was impressive, vibrating through the audience’s entire being. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony probably did everything they could, considering whatever circumstances they were dealt. It might not have been their night; it surely wasn’t mine, but it happened and I was there.

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