With Little Brother and the Demigodz
At: Avalon, Friday night
''I get to see every one of your faces!" Mike Shinoda exclaimed Friday evening at Avalon during a dynamic set by his hip-hop band Fort Minor. He seemed sincerely refreshed by the club's relative intimacy compared with the mega-arenas where he usually performs as rock juggernaut Linkin Park's frontman and MC.
Shinoda's stage presence was relaxed but honed; his rhymes were earnest and technically solid, balancing edginess with positive themes. His band, just as professional, featured three more MCs, singers, a drummer, a DJ, and in a pleasant touch, a string section. Their performance of songs from their new album, ''The Rising Tied" was tight and energetic.
It was exactly what the audience came for. Members of the young, exceedingly well-behaved crowd knew all the words to the choruses and held up their lighted cellphones at the appropriate time. They idolized their man, but modestly. He had to inveigle them to demand an encore, so calm were they at the set's end.
In rap terminology, Shinoda can spit: He has soaked in the music, and his assumption of a purist hip-hop identity doesn't feel forced or fake, in itself a major accomplishment. Less adept is his flow -- the subtle, individualized art by which an MC binds verses together, switches meter, or embeds internal rhymes. An ineffable, almost mystical quality, flow is a sort of final frontier that rock crossovers rarely if ever reach.
Earlier, the North Carolina outfit Little Brother, an alt-rap crew that's actually all black, offered a set that was made too short by a backstage delay. As when they headlined in Boston last summer, MCs Phonte and Big Pooh were proficient but missed the presence of 9th Wonder, their inspired producer and DJ.
Only the opener, a collective called Demigodz, provided the night with some salutary strangeness. It had the bravura to rhyme over classics -- a Nas loop and an Eric B. & Rakim beat, and rapper 7L did a hilarious riff on the travels of a dollar bill. Odder was MC Apathy's rap dissing his record label in the crudest terms. If it was a gimmick, he executed it disturbingly well.