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WHO: Arrested Development with Lazlo Hollyfeld

WHEN: Thursday night

WHERE: Lafayette Square

We didn't know we had it 'till we threw it away.

Back in the day, Arrested Development represented the hope of hip-hop. Nailing a few Grammys for its debut effort in 1992, and more importantly, fusing hip-hop rhythms to genuine, live-band-performed soul music, the group told us all to step up and embrace this sound, for its roots were common to us all, whatever color we happened to be.

Come sophomore album time, Arrested Development couldn't get arrested. Call it the "best new artist" curse, call it the fickle nature of the music industry, call it the faithlessness of the record-buying public -- whatever you called it, the mind-up, positive-vibe, "if you knew your history, then you would know where you're comin' from" offerings of this fine, fine Atlanta combo were buried beneath a dung-heap of bling-bling and sampled sounds. Something was lost and soon, Puff Daddy was crowned King of the Land of Nothingness.

So now, you can hear Chuck D on the radio waxin' poetic on ousting Bush, and you can go see Arrested Development for free. Weird. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, and all that.

Thursday's show, another in an excellent summer series of Thursday at the Square gigs, appeared to be the most-populated event in this year's series. There were people, quite literally, everywhere, to the point where our subway, such as it is, had trouble getting through.

Sure, nice weather had something to do with it, but really, anyone who's been paying attention to popular music for the last 15 years knows that this band -- led by rapper/singer Speech -- made some of the most significant music of the early '90s. You know, that dim and distant time when hip-hop was threatening to eclipse its competition as a valid musical form, built on history and tradition, but pointing the way toward the future. It was, truly, a people's music, and even if you weren't the people that music was intended for, you could still feel it -- it offered a deep human connection, through sonic celebration.

Arrested Development disbanded in 1996 and leader Speech hit the solo trail. He still mattered, but consumers resisted his efforts by the millions. In 2000, AD regrouped and began working on a new studio album, which ended up being the just-about-to-be-released "Among the Trees," a record from which the band drew periodically during Thursday's show.

Intermediate string overflow Cannot justify line Covering Sly and the Family Stone doesn't hurt, either; "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)" was treated with proper respect, and received in kind. Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" was granted similar treatment by the deep-grooving crowd. It was the real deal. Welcome back, Speech and Co.


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