Governors Island was crawling with people Wednesday evening, as Asher Roth and NERD performed at the Water Taxi Beach on the city’s former military post. “We’re on an island, so there’s no rules,” Roth shouted to the crowd at the start of the show. He opened his set with a performance of his album’s first track, “Lark on My Go-Kart,” and his stage presence seemed improved from past shows. The “College”-loving rapper has matured to a more traditional hip-hop performer. Whereas before he rode out in a go-kart and was surrounded onstage by props and friends dressed as joints, this set featured just him, his DJ (Wreckineyez), his hype man and drummer. While the show did boast a few goofy moments — all four paused for a poorly rehearsed dance routine to “Candy Rain” by Soul for Real — Asher’s genuine talent as an MC was on display.
The crowd was largely there for headliners NERD, but Roth, a VMA Best New Artist and Best Hip-Hop Video nominee, was able to win over a few fans. Before he left, he had plenty of hands raised in the air … in a “Star Trek” Vulcan salute. Even more in the audience saluted and screamed as the intro from “Time For Some Action” began, and Pharrell’s voice reached them. The crowd erupted once NERD finally appeared. Pharrell and Shay tag-teamed as frontmen, while Chad played keyboard just behind them at the center of the stage. The group fed off the audience’s energy as they blitzed through “Kill Joy” and “Backseat Love.” Pharrell paused to ask the crowd to stop taking pictures and to enjoy themselves instead. Even photographers in the press pit paused, unsure if he was addressing them as well. The audience seemed willing to put down their cameras and cell phones, enjoying the rest of the group’s set as Pharrell thrashed about the stage.