Chance the Rapper
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
May 7, 2017
I don’t claim to be a religious man, but damn if Chance the Rapper didn’t have me – and, likely, many more – reconsidering that notion on Sunday night. Flanked by a full band and some of the best backup singers you’ll find in any genre, the Chicago hip-hop star absolutely took a jam-packed (certainly looked sold out) crowd to church at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.
The 24-year-old Chance (born Chancellor Bennett) was admittedly performing with a heavy heart on Sunday, saying he had lost “someone close” to him earlier that day. During the performance, he stopped the music a couple of times to gather his thoughts before continuing.
But quite a show it was. Having never had the opportunity to witness a Chance show in person, I was curious if his optimistic, almost pie-in-the-sky viewpoint would play in a live setting. It did just that, and confirmed one thing, namely, that a musician need not be cynical to both be successful and successfully get his message across.
Speaking of messages, Chance has never run from nor hidden the fact that he is a Christian. Hell, his latest mixtape – the critical and commercial success Coloring Book – is not only laced with religious messaging throughout, but also features tracks with titles like “Angels” and “Blessings.” This is not a man looking to get his message across in a subtle manner.
Many of those in the crowd likely came to see Coloring Book, and Chance acknowledged as much before spending the better part of the first half of his 80-minute set on some older material. That includes tracks from his 2013 mixtape, Acid Rap.
At around 10:15 p.m., however, Chance said it was time “to get the show going,” and he launched into Coloring Book, much to the delight of the crowd. He blazed through a set that featured a number of tracks from his latest, including highlights like “All Night,” “Angels” and a poignant rendition of “Same Drugs.”
Before closing out his set, however, Chance treated those in attendance to a blazing version of “Blessings,” which played like an outright sermon, complete with music, a choir-like backing group, Chance as the preacher and concertgoers as the congregation.
Emotion catching in his voice, he promised to “make it up to” those in Houston his next time around. If he was apologizing for being somewhat somber, it wasn’t necessary. Chance made those in attendance feel something during his Houston tour stop. And how fitting he did so on a Sunday.
Thoughts on the Opener: DJ Oreo did exactly what an opener should do; namely, he set the table for the headliner to follow. Chance’s close friend did just that with a DJ set that sprinkled in hits from Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Outkast, DMX and many more. By the time Chance hit the stage 15 minutes post-Oreo set, the crowd was locked, loaded and ready to roll.
Overheard In the Crowd: “We won!” Dude behind me when he finally got enough cell service to confirm that the Rockets had in fact evened their second-round playoff series with the Spurs. As a Spurs fan, I was happy with the road split and kinda expected a loss. Good effort, Rockets; we’ll see you in Game 5.
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Random Notebook Dump: If there’s one thing I’ve learned covering music for the better part of the last two decades, it’s that hipsters love themselves both a hip-hop show and their accompanying NBA throwback jerseys. So many were on display this particular evening in The Woodlands, from more legendary staples like Kobe Bryant and Clyde Drexler to more obscure fare like Terrell Brandon (remember him?) of Minnesota fame and former Seattle Supersonics swingman Detlef Schrempf. There was, of course, plenty of Rockets and Spurs gear on display, as you’d expect.
A Personal Aside: In addition to being a Chance the Rapper fan, I had extra motivation for braving the 45-minute drive to The Woodlands on a work night. My soon-to-be-teenage son is also a huge Chance fan, so we made the trip out for our first-ever father-son concert experience. It was a great one, nice to make a memory on a nice Sunday spring night in Houston.