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– Words by Jordan Buford / Photos by James Villa –
The Bomb Factory – Dallas, TX / Friday, June 19th, 2015

©2015 James Villa Photography, All Rights Reserved

Since the beginning of May, YelaWolf has been out on the road in support of his sophomore release on Shady Records/Interscope Records, Love Story.

The eight week long run is nearly over, making this Dallas show at The Bomb Factory (his second appearance in North Texas in just a couple months, after playing a festival in the area in late April) one of the final dates of The Love Story Tour: Chapter I.

It was easy to forget that fact this night. Theoretically, the band should be rather road worn at this point, though there was never a second this where you would have made that assumption.

The stage had a nice ambiance. Some candles and a lamp sat atop a piano on stage right; the candles being lit shortly before they took the stage; then you the station that DJ Klever used, much of the gear being hidden behind what looked to be, rather appropriately, the front end of a Chevy truck. A cow skull was placed on the hood of it, an American flag hanging around the horns.

It was a little before 10:50 when the lights dimmed, though it still took a bit before any movement was seen on stage, leading the thousand plus crowd to begin a collective chant of “YELAWOLF!”. His band—which was rounded out by Geoff Firebaugh on bass and a guitarist referred to as Bones—were first out, easing them into the opening number, which wound up being the lead track off Love Story, “Outer Space”. They would play the bulk of that new album this night, as well as plenty of older stuff; stuff such as “Good to Go”, the hip-hop artist finishing that latter one standing atop the hood of the partial truck.

©2015 James Villa Photography, All Rights Reserved

DJ Klever soon began the dark sounding intro for “Growin’ Up in the Gutter”, Firebaugh swapping over to an upright bass, using a bow to play the strings and help create the eerie sound. It was brief, though the rawness and emotion was conveyed, YelaWolf raising the mic stand into the air and literally slamming it to the floor in the closing moments, before walking away from it. All eyes were definitely on him.

He addressed the audience often this night; afterwards taking a moment to say that regardless what song, album, mixtape or any other way you heard of him, he was grateful everyone was there, having dropped their hard earned money to get a ticket. Something he wasn’t oblivious to, as he pointed out later in the night, was a festival going on just a few blocks over, noting how it could have been easier to go to something like that.

A lot of people, those who don’t understand rap or hip-hop, tend to consider it to be a talentless genre. I’m not saying I agree with those thoughts, but I know that’s a perspective many have of it, due largely to the fact that most artists in the field don’t do any signing. YelaWolf does not fit that traditional mold, the quick “Ball and Chain” being one of a few cuts this night that showcased what a lovely falsetto tone he has.

“Push ‘Em” really energized the onlookers when it came a couple songs later. Beforehand, YelaWolf took a poll, seeing how many patrons had and hadn’t seen one of his shows before. For many, this was their first experience at one of his shows; a large amount jumping around during the aggressive number, which ended with the rapper tossing the microphone over his shoulder.

There was one very unique moment this night, and that came after “Let’s Roll”, when a couple—Jordan and Jessica—appeared on stage, YelaWolf asking their names before turning the mic over to the guy who proposed to his girlfriend. “By the power vested in me and this bottle of Jäger, you may now take a shot!” the rapper quipped, pointing out that was the second proposal in Dallas in just as many tours.

In a somber moment this night, Yelawolf grabbed one of those candles from atop the piano, asking everyone take a moment and put a lighter or their phone, or failing that their drink or even a pair of fingers in the sky, for all those who weren’t having as good a night as everyone who was at this show. The veterans and soldiers were some of the people he referenced; while a plea to get those who aren’t actually gangsters to stop acting like they are ended with him saying some of the most gangsta’ people he had known in his life were older men who didn’t have any ink on their skin. Those that lived in the woods of Alabama, the ones he knew growing up, such as his father. That set up “Pop the Trunk”, which was one of a few offerings they did from Trunk Muzik 0-60 this night.

©2015 James Villa Photography, All Rights Reserved

As he showed off just how versatile he is (especially the diverse range of music that influenced him in his youth), he went from doing an acapella (partial) rendition of Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” to “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”, those latter two being mixed around his original, “I Wish”, effectively turning it into a medley.

They continued running through this set that consisted of two dozen songs, “Tennessee Love” being dedicated to “my lady” as YelaWolf phrased it, referring to Fefe Dobson, who would make an appearance a little later on in this 105-minute long set. He followed what he considered to be a more country song with one about heartbreak, aptly, “Heartbreak”; before removing the American flag from around the cow skull and draping it over the mic stand for the duration of “Johnny Cash”.

In advance of “Best Friend”, YelaWolf shared his story of first meeting Eminem, saying he was wondering, “Why me?” as far as getting that opportunity; saying that if any song of his summed up their relationship, it was that one that Eminem lent his voice to on the Love Story record.

The American flag now rested on YelaWolf’s shoulders; and with just a couple songs left, he gave a loving speech, saying, “…She always has my back…”, when welcoming Dobson out on stage. She provided some backing vocals during “Devil in My Veins”, as they brought this show to a more relaxed end, Bones using an acoustic guitar not only on it but “Till it’s Gone” as well.

The lot of them stood arms around one another, bowing and thanking the crowd for the wonderful night.

©2015 James Villa Photography, All Rights Reserved

Many thought that was it, rushing for the doors in hopes to beat the worst of the traffic out, though those that stuck around were rewarded with the lone encore, as they returned to play the fourth single spawned from Love Story, “American You”, the crowd often chanting along to each “Fuck you, too.”

As I said, given how long this tour has been going on, with nearly forty shows having been played counting this one, there was never any sign of wear and tear this night. That was pretty impressive, to see YelaWolf get up there and still hit with such ferocity and at times an “I don’t give a fuck” type attitude, yet he did. Everything was done not just because it was his passion at a craft he so clearly enjoys and excels at, but because people had come out to see him. It was all for the fans and giving them the best possible show that they could. You’ve got to respect that.

I’m certainly not the biggest hip-hop fan, though it was nice hearing the few songs of his I was familiar with as well as getting turned on to some others in the process. And if this is Chapter I of The Love Story Tour, one has to wonder, “When will Chapter II take place?”I think quite a few people are already ready for it.

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