House of Blues, Los Angeles, March 5, 1999
"How many of you here are from the old school?" asked Joseph "Run" Simmons to the crowd that packed Los Angeles' House of Blues last Thursday night. It was a rhetorical question, to be sure. As Simmons and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels kicked off the show with the groundbreaking "Rock Box" from their 1984 self-titled debut album, the fans rapped along with every word and crowded the edge of the stage to touch the duo's Adidas shoes.
Simmons and McDaniels have every right to be as old-school as they wanna be. In the early and mid-Eighties, Run-DMC led the way for the then-underground genre of rap, and became its most popular practitioners. Their 1986 album Raising Hell was a particularly huge success, and their remake of "Walk This Way" with Aerosmith's Steve Tyler and Joe Perry catapulted rap into the mainstream. But while "Walk This Way" re-ignited Aerosmith's career in a big way, Run-DMC hasn't had much large-scale recognition since then -- partly because of the difficulty of living up to such huge initial success, and partly because they didn't fit in with the gangsta-fied sound that dominated the rap world in the late Eighties and early Nineties.
With Jam Master Jay burning up the turntables, Simmons and McDaniels ran through their early hip-hop hits, largely ignoring their later material. The fans were hyped up enough by "My Adidas" and "Sucker M.C.'s," but halfway through the show, when Steven Tyler and Joe Perry made an unannounced appearance for "Walk This Way," the crowd went insane. Almost unbelievably, Tyler, Perry and Run-DMC had never performed the song together in concert. A truly historic occasion -- and an unforgettable reminder of what a great moment "Walk This Way" is in the history of music.
"I don't know what we're gonna do after that," Simmons admitted, which could serve as a summary of Run-DMC's career. Still, they made a fine stab at avoiding an anti-climactic close. Waving their old-school flags high, they delivered an exciting show with nary a mention of weaponry or a single derogatory line about women all evening. It was refreshing to see that Run-DMC could make old-school rap sound fresh without resorting to the gangsta leanings that kept them flying below the radar for so long.