|Lil' Wayne (above in New York) was a hit in Mansfield. (Brendan McDermid/REUTERS)|
It was the same diamond-toothed grin from the night before, but it wasn't.
Lil' Wayne hopped across the Tweeter Center stage, fresh Red Sox cap over his dreads, matching red and blue scarf around his neck, Red Sox book bag across his back with the tag still hanging off it, "Make it Rain" booming from the speakers.
The grin just seemed more sincere.
He had punched the clock the night before in Providence, strolling in about an hour off schedule for Hot Night, giving Power 106.3 and his worshipers an hour of his time, but making it feel like the honor was theirs entirely.
Saturday's was almost the exact same show, but a completely different feel.
Wayne was the last of 13 acts.
Trey Songz bridged a singer's smoothness with a rapper's swagger much better than The Dream had. Jim Jones crashed the stage midway through the show, letting everybody do the Free Throw dance since the Celtics had just clinched the Finals. And Rick Ross hit the stage with the most ignorant chain imaginable: a replica of his face.
Maybe it was the spirit of competition.
Then again, maybe it was the crowd.
He was working with 10,000 at the Dunkin' Donuts Center the night before. He had a sold-out show in Mansfield with nearly twice as many people, and if he so much as rolled his eyes, or nodded his head, they gobbled it up.
When he sat on a stool and wiped off his sneakers in the middle of his verse to Shawty Lo's "Dey Know" remix, the crowd went nuts.
"Cause all my kicks fly," he said. "Like Liu Kang."
A Mortal Kombat reference for a generation that missed Mortal Kombat.
He had a human cup holder hanging around the DJ booth, and just minutes into the show he reached for a drink. It was water, an inside joke for everyone expecting him to reach for a cup full of Sprite and cough syrup.
"Nothin'," he said, playing to the crowd. "I'm just chillin.' "
Then, of course, he grabbed a cup.
They went nuts.
He did "Go DJ" and "Dying" for the crowd in Mansfield, and an X-rated freestyle that even the most creative writer couldn't get into this paper, but it wasn't the extra songs that Providence missed out on, it was the extra energy. Whether he sang full songs, feature verses, songs he had nothing to do with, or even if he strummed awkwardly at his guitar, the crowd followed him word-for-word like there was a bouncing ball on the three big screens.
He smudged the line between verses that were and weren't his (no apologies to Playaz Circle or Turk), and the crowd couldn't have cared less.
"Make some noise for yourself," he told them. "Now make some noise for me."
They went nuts.
He shows all his gratitude on stage. That's about it.
Almost half the Summer Jam acts skipped the meet the artist sessions. Wayne was the least surprising of the no-shows. He's more likely to be holed up in his bus than to be promoting the album.
Interviews are rare, but his most recent sit-down is infamous because he flew in a writer from mix tape magazine Foundation just to say "[expletive] mix tapes." He had no idea that, as he was performing, his much-anticipated, much-sabotaged album "Tha Carter III" was seeping onto the Internet thanks to that interviewer.
The damage couldn't be more minimal. The rapper is practically bulletproof at this point. His name is his sales pitch.
Everybody at Summer Jam either had an album out or one on the way. Plies's drops on the same day as Wayne's. But Wayne was the only one who could turn his release date into a jingle, then get the crowd to call and respond.
"A Carter III, uh/ A June 10th, uh."
His henchmen were walking billboards.
The red shirts said "Carter III."
The black shirts said "June 10th."
The human cup holder had on a red shirt.
So did Lloyd, the R&B singer who had performed earlier in the day, but took the stage again in the finale with Wayne, singing the hook to "You" just so Wayne could rip through his verses.
Wayne closed the show with "Lollipop," his introduction to the pop universe.
He left behind a sea of people, dotted by T-shirts with a deathly looking black-and-white photo of himself on the front, and his baby picture from the Carter III album cover on the back, hinting at images of the Notorious B.I.G.
It wasn't a mistake. To the people wearing the shirts, that's who Wayne is.