Chance The Rapper, Francis & the Lights
Revention Music Center
October 15, 2016
I’ve been wondering what exactly the number 3 represents for Chance The Rapper. It was embossed on a number of snapbacks, hats, T-shirts and more inside Revention Music Center Saturday night. It’s bugged me for months. Was it the third phase? The third coming? Was he calling himself this generation’s king of Chicago following Common (1994-2002) and Kanye West (2004-2011)? Or was he just counting free albums, of which Coloring Book happens to be the third one?
In actuality, the number 3 means completeness, according to the Bible. Although 7 represents the most complete, 3 is in the same parking lot, just a few rows away. Chance The Rapper isn’t a perfect artist, but he is a thoroughly engaging one. A charming, fully sincere, frayed-haired spirit ball who just happens to rest in human form. He teased the crowd of mostly teens and early-twentysomethings Saturday night by showing up in the middle of Francis & the Lights’ opening set to dance. The crowd sprung to life, throwing their hands, cameraphones, water bottles and such in the air to try to capture him, but he was too goofy or carefree to notice. That wasn’t the real show.
The real one was watching Chance take 75 minutes of his night to bring a coloring book back to life.
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I don’t consider myself an authority on all things Chancellor Bennett. I have, however, seen him on two separate occasions (this being the third) and now in three different incarnations. First as the wild yet still growing Chance from Acid Rap, then as band leader for The Social Experiment, who produced the most uplifting album of last year in Surf. Saturday, he offered more personal exploration for the crowd to see. Near the end of it, he slowed down “Blessings,” the version in which Ty Dolla $ign is crooning alongside Raury, Anderson .Paak, BJ the Chicago Kid and more, to a crawl. He wanted to speak — and tell us a few things.
“Did you know that you blessing ain’t at no show, ain’t on no album, ain’t made of flesh...but it’s coming?” he sung to the melody. He switched it up and let his message run a second time: “Did you know that your blessing ain’t on my mixtape, ain’t at my show, is not of this world...but it’s coming?”
It’s been that way for a long minute now. Somehow, Chance The Rapper rediscovered the Spirit of the Lord while figuring out his own mental demons. He’s copped to a Xanax addiction and kicked it; he’s jumped and performed and battled health scares quite often. When everything clicks with him on a stage, though? There may be no better live performer of this generation of young talent. Blog-era rappers seemed to have mastered the Jay Z “Stand and View the Crowd” approach to performing. Not Chance. He interacts with the figures and shapes in his head; those from his childhood brought back to life.
There’s Carlos the Lion, who doubles as Chance’s mascot. There’s also Lady, a puppet dressed as a 1920s jazz singer who helps him discuss letting go of addiction on “Same Drugs." There’s a bed and a door and Chance pulling off Tom Cruise Risky Business slides, and even a gospel choir of lions who understand “Sunday Candy." And smoke, and wild-eyed graphics displayed on a couple of LED boards. And confetti to bathe in when the show ends. The Magnificent Coloring World Tour is a mind trip of the spirit and the body. The soul merely finds awakening through Chance’s leadership.
As Chance loomed over the crowd, cutting through tracks all the way from 10 Day (“Brain Cells”) to small spatters of Acid Rap and his feature appearances, he couldn’t stop smiling. It’s natural for him to boast and brag about coming back to Houston. After all, the mother of his child is from here and is a key part of “All We Got," Coloring Book’s opening number. Still, he wanted to run through every single minute of the track list before giving a customary introduction.
“I keep forgetting this, but I was so excited to come back to Houston,” he told the crowd, who met him with the usual cheap pop of acceptance. He then acted like someone who knew all about democracy and letting people determine what they want. He may have feigned his tells about the show being a healthy mix of high energy and introspection, but the crowd still remained shocked and wrapped up.
Going to the Magnificent Coloring World Tour gives you a sort of completeness afterwards. You see a man barely into appreciating his twenties tell you to appreciate patience and to openly talk to God. You see a man dig into the recesses of his mind and bring out every imaginary character and creation he’s made on his way to adulthood. Chance still plays band leader for The Social Experiment, who are as equally lively and broad as he is. Donnie Trumpet lets his namesake do all of his talking, Chance’s older brother hammers home the weight and cutting nature of a kick drum, a snare and their accompaniments.
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As I and the thousands of others walked out of the venue, some of them were tired. Most of them gave corny, on-the-nose critiques of the show. “I don’t have to go to church tomorrow,” one girl giggled. Maybe not, but for a night Chance The Rapper was the most relatable youth pastor you’ve ever met in your life.
And probably the nicest, most humble rapper currently doing it.
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