Queens hip-hop legends A Tribe Called Quest stunned their hometown crowd Sunday at New York’s Panorama music festival, when rapper Q-Tip announced in the middle of their main-stage set — which was attended by Dave Chappelle, Amy Schumer, and Aziz Ansari — that this would be Tribe’s final NYC-area concert.
“This is our last show here in New York, that’s it — as Tribe. You know, we gotta honor our brother, Phife Dawg,” Q-Tip explained, staring up at a video-screened image of his late bandmate. Phife died due to complications from diabetes, at age 45, in March last year — eight months before the release of Tribe’s critically acclaimed final album, We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service — and Panorama marked the first full A Tribe Called Quest concert in New York since his passing. It turned out the group was already saying goodbye.
“We wanna thank everybody in New York City for supporting A Tribe Called Quest since 1988 up to now,” Q-Tip continued, noting that Phife’s parents were in the Panorama audience. “And we want to thank all of y’all who extended all of your wishes and empathy and prayers — not only to us, but to Phife’s family as well.”
Tribe, also featuring Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, then played an a cappella recording of Phife’s verse from “Butter,” off 1991’s The Low End Theory, with Q-Tip saying, “This is one of my — and I think one of Jarobi’s too — favorite joints from Phife.” Q-Tip also shared an amusing anecdote about how the verse was originally supposed to be his, until Phife heard it in the studio and claimed it for himself.
Tribe’s NYC swan song wasn’t the only emotional moment of Panorama Sunday. Closing out the festival, headliners Nine Inch Nails performed their new “Farewell Remix” of “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” the closing track from David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar (which, like Tribe’s album, was one of the greatest releases of 2016). NIN frontman Trent Reznor was a longtime friend and collaborator of Bowie’s — the two toured together in 1995, and in 1997 they released the duet “I’m Afraid of Americans,” the chilling music video of which was shot in New York City. Watching Reznor salute Bowie in New York, 20 years after “I’m Afraid of Americans,” was a beautiful and bittersweet moment indeed.
Speaking of being afraid of Americans, Reznor is still righteously, vein-poppingly angry about the state of our nation, after all these years — NIN’s brand-new EP is titled Add Violence, and in a recent Village Voice interview, Reznor called Donald Trump “a complete f***ing moron,” “a bad guy,” and “a vulgar, grotesque dope, everything I hate in people.” Reznor refrained from any overt political commentary or Trump-bashing at Panorama, but he definitely seemed to be venting through his intense music Sunday evening, from the moment he stormed the stage to “Branches/Bones” (from last December’s comeback EP, Not the Actual Events) with its doomy intonation, “Everyone seems to be asleep.” All black leather and white-hot rage, the alt-rock icon proceeded to fume and grit his teeth throughout the fast and furious “March of the Pigs, “The Wretched,” “Head Like a Hole,” and “Copy of A.”
However, there were moments of restraint and reverence, during which the crowd — as they had for Reznor’s respectful Bowie homage — went absolutely pindrop-silent. The rarely played lost-love lament “Something I Can Never Have,” off 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine, was a stunning comedown, and NIN’s set ended with The Downward Spiral’s achingly sad “Hurt” — a ballad now associated in many fans’ minds with another fallen legend, Johnny Cash, who recorded it in 2002 for his own final album, shortly before his death.
The second annual Panorama Music Festival took place at New York’s Randall’s Island Park July 28 to 30 and streamed live on Yahoo Music; check out our recaps from Friday and Saturday, as well as other video highlights here. A Tribe Called Quest’s farewell tour will continue with festival appearances at San Francisco’s Outside Lands on Aug. 11 and Ireland’s Electric Picnic on Sept. 2.