A$AP Rocky Was Pretty Good for the 40 Minutes He Performed

The Rocky and Tyler Tour, featuring A$AP Rocky; Tyler, The Creator; Danny Brown and Vince Staples
NRG Arena
October 2, 2015

You can never really judge a show by how it starts. Every show, even shows that end up being bad, seems exciting for the first two minutes. That moment when the headline act comes onstage is euphoric if you’re a fan and at least interesting if you aren’t. While that euphoria feels great, you need at least a few songs to really gauge where the show is going.

Friday night, A$AP Rocky had found his groove. He and the Mob had just crushed “Hella Hoes” and “Shabba.” He looked like a true superstar as he made his way up and down the hashtag on steroids that made up his stage set. The crowd was going bonkers, many of them having jumped the rails from the seats to the floor at Rocky’s suggestion. This was shaping up to be a really great set.

And then Rocky informed everyone that he had one last song to play and then he had to go. He hadn’t even been onstage for 40 minutes at that point, and already he was wrapping things up, just as things were really getting good.

It’s a kind of ending that can cast a shadow over the entire show leading up to it. Up until that, the "Rocky & Tyler" tour had been a pretty good Friday night out. Vince Staples was charming and funny and clearly knows how to get an unfamiliar crowd into his music; Danny Brown was a lightning bolt and a straight adrenaline shot to the crowd, and he looked damn good on a bigger, non-club stage. Tyler, the Creator was Tyler, the Creator.

That’s not a knock on Tyler, mind you. If the goal of a performance is to give the crowd exactly what they want, then Tyler is a master. He’s got jokes, about the crowd and about himself. He’s got raw energy, which you need when you have the cult-like following he has. And he’s got songs, which everyone who jammed on top of each other at the front to try to get closer to him knew all the words to.

Tyler held his own in the weird confines of NRG Arena, where all shows feel kind of off because of the shape of the room, winning over those unfamiliar with him through his strength of personality and some solid tracks. Things never felt rowdy, in spite of how some in the crowd really wanted to do some slam-dancing.

So really, all A$AP Rocky had to do was take the stage and be himself. When he talks to the crowd, he has a very chill type of charisma, but that all goes away as soon as the beat drops. His performance energy is infectious, and you get the feeling that putting on a good show is something that's more instinct than something he had to learn.

In hindsight, the fact that the changeover between Tyler's and Rocky’s sets dragged on forever should have been a sign. Yeah, rap shows start notoriously late, but you expect a slightly tighter ship at an NRG-branded venue. Still, Rocky is so good at what he does that it was easy to forgive the delay once he showed up.

If I were a guessing man, and for the sake of this review I am, I’m going to guess that whatever the delay was with the stage, coupled with whatever the delay is with rap shows, pushed the show late, and with a crowd clearly exceeding what the fire marshal would be happy with on the floor, someone on high made the decision to cut the show early. That’s going to be my headcanon, at least, because I would hate for the alternative to be true: that the guy who claimed that playing in Houston felt like a kind of homecoming suddenly got bored six songs into his show and wanted to move on to Austin.

To his credit, he handled things well. He didn’t make a big fuss about the show being shut down (if that were the case); he simply let everyone know he was glad they made it out but it was time for him to go, as if only playing a 40-minute set was the natural order of things. He played it completely cool, like a true professional.

Which explains the thing that, in my mind, was the weirdest part of the night: Everyone seemed okay with this. I didn’t see anyone getting angry or upset that the show was over — no one demanding refunds, no pissed-off tweets, no one with even a frown on his face. The show was over and they accepted that and were happy to go home or somewhere else.

So maybe that euphoria thing doesn’t end with the first song. Maybe you can love someone so much that you don’t need to hold that person to a higher standard. You’re simply happy to take whatever he or she is willing to give.

Even if that’s only 40 minutes onstage.

Personal Bias: Had A$AP played “Wild for the Night,” this review might be a little different.

The Crowd: Had a gentleman offer me a hit from his joint, which is something that hadn’t happened to me in roughly forever, so at least people were polite. I said no, because I don’t smoke, and because the dude looked like maybe he liked to get wet and I didn’t think trying to review a show on PCP was the best idea. YMMV.

Overheard In the Crowd: Something about a large group of mostly white males yelling “Fuck the police” is hilarious to me.

Random Notebook Dump: I have a couple of questions about the sign below, seen outside of the venue:
A) Who, in the history of this building, has brought a phone book to the show, and what was his or her end goal?
B) No newspapers? What did we ever do to you, NRG Park?

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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia