LL Cool J (short for Ladies Love Cool James) incited a wild dancing frenzy in the sold-out crowd at the Chumash Casino Resort on Saturday night. The masterful movie and TV persona returned to his roots to play a genuine and heartfelt hip hop concert to the delight of an adulate crowd.
It was the second time the entertainer has headlined a show in the Santa Barbara area in recent months after a summer show at the Santa Barbara Bowl. But this show at the Chumash Casino Resort was a much more personal and intimate gathering.
The dance trance started early in the packed Samala Showroom with a set by opening DJ Chuck Chillout. The crowd swarmed the stage as soon as the veteran hip hop DJ from New York began to play a set of classic dance tunes. Chillout (Charles Turner) began his career as a pioneering hip hop performer back in 1982. His 45-minute set had concert goers dancing in the aisles and in front of the stage. Teenagers, grandmothers and even news photographers could be seen twerking all around the venue.
After a short break, LL Cool J's personal DJ, Z-Trip, took over the controls and launched a more millennium-inspired dance set, complete with state-of-the-art lighting and special effects. Z-Trip (Zach Sciacca), a Phoenix native who now calls Los Angeles home, is also a pioneer in his own right. He's one of the first great mash-up DJs, who brought a new type of live DJ dance music to the world. He is a top performer in his own right, having played to huge crowds, including a headlining slot at the prestigious Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival. His 20-minute solo set had most of the packed house dancing to the gut-thumping bass and mash-up masterpieces.
By the time huge emergency lights began to flash on stage and pyrotechnics began to explode in the background, the audience was in a frenzied dance euphoria. The masterful performer, LL Cool J, then sauntered out from behind the explosions and descended a staircase to the stage below, in a triumphant, defiant entrance. The audience went wild, screaming and shouting. Those closest to the legendary hip hop artist reached out to touch him.
LL Cool J, who has recorded 13 studio albums (10 of which consecutively went platinum in sales), began a brilliant and masterful presentation. He strutted about the stage, making eye contact with seemingly the entire audience at one point or another. The intimidating and aggressive performer exuded the confidence of even the most arrogant and menacing of the hip hop superstars.
As the crowd embraced their idol, he responded in a gracious and affectionate way, reaching out to individuals in a humble and heartfelt manner. DJ Z-Trip backed the omnipresent singer with a seamless soundtrack that kept the energy explosive throughout the first several songs. Then LL Cool J invited the most overzealous members of the audience up onstage to dance to a more melodic ballad, the likes of which have made him a sex symbol with generations of female fans, not unlike a persona akin to Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra.
Dozens of people began to climb onto the stage to embrace and dance with him. In a veritable cultural rainbow, women — and a few men — of all colors, sizes and age groups mobbed the performer, much to the chagrin of his nervous body guards. LL Cool J reached out to as many as he could, shaking hands, embracing and dancing with the jubilant fans as the crowd in the showroom went wild with excitement. He even posed with an enthusiastic fan for a “selfie” with her cell phone — without missing a beat from the song.
Then the stage was cleared and the deafening bass began to fill the showroom as LL Cool J launched into musical gems from his voluminous catalog of massive hit songs. By the end of the 90-minute set, nearly everyone may have felt like they had just spent an intimate night with their good friend, LL Cool J. James Todd Smith really is about as cool as anyone can be.
— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. The opinions expressed are his own.