WORCESTER -- A quick scan of the sold-out Palladium audience on Wednesday provided the sense that a lot of homework wouldn't be turned in the next morning. The mostly teenage crowd seemed focused on making the most of this school-night concert that featured Ludacris, who grew up in Atlanta and is called the "King of the South" in some hip-hop circles. It may be time to change that title because by the time he hit the stage, his kingdom appeared to be growing.
Despite being plagued by a muddy sound system, Ludacris turned in a strong performance. The bulk of his hourlong set consisted of a continual string of hits ("Act a Fool," "Southern Hospitality," "Splash Waterfalls"), and he showed off the talents that made them hits. With an engaging voice that he uses as an instrument, Ludacris catered his delivery to the cadence of each track. His ability to make his voice and words become one with the beat -- hip-hoppers call it flow -- is one of his signatures, along with his sense of humor.
And though the subject matter may not always be the cleanest, his wit has a way of making the profane seem not so dirty. On a song such as "Area Codes," in which he detailed all the places in the country where he has had sexual conquests, Ludacris made the listener chuckle at his cleverness. He also impressed with full versions of his songs and stayed away from the quick mix-tape feel of many hip-hop shows.
The intensity inside the arena was also notable. A hand-picked crowd couldn't have been better for this concert, which will be broadcast on MTV in the future, as people hung on every word.
Unlike his mentor, Chingy (who takes his name from a St. Louis slang term for rich) didn't display the star quality of Ludacris in his opening set. He gave the excited fans his hits, but one got the feeling that without those well-known singles, he couldn't create his own electricity. In contrast, David Banner put on a fun, energetic set, at one point climbing up to the balcony seats. Knocturnal began the show and was solid, though he was saddled with sound problems.