Bryson Tiller Hits and Misses In Warehouse Live Debut

Bryson Tiller
Warehouse Live
December 18, 2015

Before you walked into Warehouse Live on Friday night, you heard rumblings and rumors about a singer/rapper from Louisville, Kentucky named Bryson Tiller. This singer/rapper only has one full-length project to his name, yet has sold out concerts across the country in a matter of minutes.

The base for Bryson Tiller is catching vibes, a sort of musical approach where you’re attacking the mindset of, “Damn, I’ve been there” when listening to a song. Tiller’s T R A P S O U L, for the most part, is about sleeping with someone else’s girlfriend, owning your own self-confidence and convincing women that even though you’re a scumbag, you’re the perfect scumbag for the lady of your choice. Friday night, Tiller made his Houston debut to a more than sold-out show at Warehouse Live. For an artist with only one project to his name, this was rather monumental. It also showed that catchy and memorable for the right generation songs like “Don’t” and “Exchange” can win over large audiences with ease.

Where openers such as THEY. and Brian Angel did their best to win over a crowd only there for one act — seriously, they even covered H-Town's "Knockin' Da Boots" for added effect — Tiller stepped onstage to plenty of female roars and approval. The night already won in his mind, he remarked in amazement on how fast and sudden fame hit. “They told me this shit sold out in 24 hours,” he said. “I thank you guys so much.”

What it doesn’t help is that Tiller, though primed for crafting records in darkness, seemed green and overwhelmed by the moment Friday night. Shrouded in a large jacket and his trusty fitted hat, he seemed more like a nondescript rapper trying to remember cues as opposed to outright owning the stage. When it came to records that were tailor-made for rap karaoke such as the autobiographical “Ten Nine Fourteen,” the audience hummed, more concerned with social media and their conversations than the performer onstage. When it came to performing his more massive, female-friendly songs where he rides a melody like “Sorry Not Sorry,” the female portion of the crowd not only took over the song, you would have thought that Warehouse Live had banished all male presence until the show was over. It may feel like a great thing when an audience completely owns your song as you perform it, but to the ladies inside Warehouse, it was karaoke with 1,500-plus other people joining you in unison.

“I was sleeping in my car between jobs, working moving jobs and supporting my 2-year-old daughter,” Tiller told the crowd before closing with "Don't." “I quit music for her, because I needed a job and shit. I’m struggling calling my boys for $20 and shit, but they kept pushing me to make music. Because they said I was gonna make a song that was gonna change my life.”

His testimony is a definite lure for people who doubt him, and his true talents lie as a marginal singer but a strong songwriter. It’s why such a disconnect between songs you believe should tear a venue down like “Rambo” existed. As Tiller openly gets mocked for moving into PARTYNEXTDOOR’s lane, his visual aesthetic did him no favors either two LED boards positioned on opposite sides of the stage played different color schemes except for “Exchange,” when they became constantly noticeable heart monitors.

Rappers want to be singers. Singers want to be rappers. That used to be the old adage, ever since R&B and hip-hop started to blend more and more into each other. Bryson Tiller, by his mannerisms onstage and his subject matter, is a rapper who can hold enough of a note to pass as a singer. It’s not a hateful thing to state, but he’s got some more growing to do onstage before really giving people a show that sticks. Nine songs and less than 40 minutes was all that Tiller's fans, even those who obviously lied about being down with his now-viral Soundcloud page since last October, got.

But people believe in Bryson Tiller — so much that they’re willing to pay six times more than face value to see him in concert. It may be some time before he gives them a show worth $150, but on Friday night he basked in the moment without necessarily owning it.

Intro (The Difference)
Set You Free
Ten Nine Fourteen
Sorry Not Sorry
502 Come Up
Been That Way
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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell