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It’s early, but until further notice, Shabazz Palaces’ Seattle debut last Friday at Neumos—to a house packed with a remarkably energetic, varied crowd—was the show of the year. Raised the bar, set the stage, changed the game, and all that.

Shabazz mastermind Ishmael Butler looked absurdly yet credibly magisterial in a red head scarf and shades standing behind a tabletop sampler and laptop. Throughout the show, Butler was joined by hand percussionist Tendai "Baba" Maraire, fellow MC Silk (aka Dougie Ur Dad), and a pair of kinetic yet elegant backup dancers, making for a spectacle. Larry Mizell Jr. was right: "They energize the scene without breaking a sweat." Shabazz calmly burned the full house down to the motherfucking ground.

The sound was superb, the bass low and enveloping, the digital hand claps and hi-hats crisp and ricocheting, the live percussion rounding things out, Butler's vocals clear and commanding. "Find Out," with its bleary bass-burping and floating, squeaky flute line, sounded outstanding, Butler's affirmations resoundingly authoritative. On "My Mac Yawns," the sinisterly funky refrain of "Yeah pretty much, motherfucker, good times" (ambiguous on record in a good-times-are-killing-me sort of way) sounded sincerely celebratory.

The disco ball lit up blue for the eerie, dystopian night-drive of "Capital 5," a sprawling two-part song centered on Butler's mission to be "a bright light on the dark side of town," floating around the city streets like the ghost of Seattle present, "Up on Jackson/Up on King/We makin' a right," a tour of the town like a dark inversion of Mix's old "Posse on Broadway," suicide bombers taking the place of crackheads.

Maraire handily dismissed any poor souls still wringing their hands over whether or not the rest of the hiphop world gives a shit about Seattle: "Are we on the map or what?" (Huge cheers.) "We been on the map since day one." They finally broke into "Blastit," a hush over the crowd allowing the mbira thumb piano's dinky acoustic sound to ring out as Butler triggered sampled vocal stutters and thick bass kicks.

They closed with the personable gutter-­funk lope of "A Mess" ("See, I'm just like you/Yeah, I know I'm a mess..."), host Candidt shouting-out pretty much every local hiphop crew on the song's extended outro. They encored with Jake One's triumphant 206 posse cut "Home," everybody onstage to do their parts, Butler sounding more street-level than on Shabazz's relatively lofty cuts, someone shouting, "This is for the town!"

So, clearly, Shabazz have Seattle sewed up tight, and now that Butler's "secret" identity is out, the real mystery becomes: How far is Butler planning to take Shabazz Palaces? His whole cryptic DIY approach suggests that maybe he's just not that interested in moving units (he's been there, done that, won the Grammy, got Tide money, after all). On the other hand, how tightly he's crafted every aspect of this project, from his identity to his image to his artwork and videos, suggests grand designs could be brewing behind the scenes. Shabazz Palaces should be huge; we'll just have to wait and see how big Butler wants to go. recommended