Review: Chance the Rapper bursts with creativity at Fox
Saturday was the biggest day in Chance the Rapper’s career: In his hometown of Chicago, he performed in front of a crowd of more than 48,000 fans at U.S. Cellular Field, where the White Sox play, at his own Magnificent Coloring Day festival.
There was little time for him to soak it in. On Sunday it was back to work, as he performed at a sold-out Fox Theatre in Detroit.
If he was sluggish it would have been understandable. But there was little sign of slowdown from the 23-year-old, who delivered a high-energy, high-concept 90-minute show that was bursting with creativity and imagination.
The evening did get off to a late start, as venue doors didn’t open until just before the concert’s advertised 8 p.m. start time. That caused a long line to snake around the Fox Theatre for several hours before showtime, and pushed everything back about 45 minutes.
Chance finally hit the stage at about 10 minutes before 10 p.m., bringing with him the momentum from Saturday’s Chicago extravaganza. That show was the culmination of several years of buildup for Chance, whose popularity has been swelling for years and crested with the release of this year’s “Coloring Book,” his third mixtape.
Chance’s gospel-tinged rap coalesces on “Coloring Book,” and he’s also the MVP of Kanye West’s “Life of Pablo” album for his spiritual presence on the set’s opening track and tone-setter, “Ultralight Beam.”
But those just seem like building blocks for Chance, whose ambitious live show dances deftly on a creative tight rope upon which few others could balance. Case in point: Who is the last rapper you’ve seen perform with a chorus of puppets? Go ahead, we’ll wait.
Early in Sunday’s show, Chance was joined on stage by Carlos the Lion, a life-size puppet who acted as Chance’s conscience as well as a foil, like he was getting checked by a character from “Sesame Street.” Carlos turned out to be a constant presence, and Chance interacted with him frequently, as Carlos pushed Chance to stay true to himself and to keep positive.
If Carlos eventually wore out his welcome – he constantly referred to Chance as “big fella,” which turned from amusing to grating – it was a perfect manifestation of Chance’s childlike world vision. He’s the kind of guy who may very well see puppets when he closes his eyes.
Other puppets joined in on the fun: Chance performed “Same Drugs” seated at a white piano with a puppet figure who was lifted off stage using cables suspended from the ceiling, and another puppet took the reins for Chance during “D.R.A.M. Sings Special.” And there was the whole puppet chorus (14 of them in all) who helped him close the show with “Blessings (Reprise),” which made it look like Chance was performing with an animatronic band like the Rockafire Explosion.
If it was a little precious by half, it showed that the gears in his head are turning, and Chance isn’t interested in putting on a typical show. There were other theatrical elements: He stumbled through a door on stage before “Baby Blue,” and crashed on a bed that was wheeled on stage during “D.R.A.M.” The narrative may not have been airtight, but these are building blocks for the future. He’s allowed to play around and see what works.
When he wasn’t flexing Broadway ideas, Chance was entertaining in other ways: his physicality makes him an exciting, exuberant live performer, and he was backed by a tight three-piece band composed of a drummer, keyboard player and trumpet player.
His 20-plus song set was lively, especially during “Coloring Book” favorites like “No Problem,” “Angels” and “Summer Friends,” the last of which was performed alongside opening act Francis and the Lights.
Given the magnitude of Saturday’s concert, it was somewhat surprising it was never mentioned, but Chance was clearly looking to get back into his groove with the live show.
“I just want to say thank you, thank you,” he told the crowd of mostly early 20-somethings late in the evening. “I appreciate everybody in this room that helped me get to where I’m trying to get to.”
He’s not there yet, but he’s on his way. And Sunday was proof that when he finally does arrive at his destination, it’s going to be, well, magnificent.