Travis Scott, Khalid
Revention Music Center
May 11, 2017
If rap were The Hunger Games, Travis Scott would be the leader of Capital City. His performances, dating back to his earliest shows at Warehouse Live, have been proxy wars of attrition. If you match his energy, you’ll escape with your life. If you don't, that's on you.
Thursday night, Scott fully ascended to supreme Houston rap star. If it wasn't the Rockets' attempt to let magic strike twice at Toyota Center with his presence, it was a raucous crowd who would have marched to war for him. It's still the biggest “duck out of Houston and return a conquering hero” story in the annals of Houston rap. Scott's move up from influencer on a G.O.O.D Music soundtrack to festival-killer came suddenly, but it's happened.
Unlike in his earlier shows in smaller venues, Scott isn't trying to swing on fans who test him in mosh pits. Instead, he's giving fair warning to all parties involved, like Taz cutting a ECW or WWF promo: “Survive, if I let you.”
So, among the weird things you see at a Travis Scott show, besides kids flying to the sides of the room as if asking out of the game, is a giant bungee apparatus hanging from a speaker. Birds Eye View took the metaphor to absurd heights as Scott’s set found a way to add bird cages, smoke and chain-link fencing. Oh, and a mechanized bird that lit up and flapped its wings almost in synchronized step with Travis himself. You might as well have called Revention Center a Hell In A Cell; they looked eerily similar.
“If you can't survive this shit, the front door is right there, right there and in the back,” Scott told the crowd. Basically, he knew he was the conductor of anarchy, the director of a thousand mosh pits and potential fights. “Mamacita” rang out like a bomb had detonated inside Revention and all Scott could do was survey what he had caused. “If they can't survive, they gotta get out.”
With Mike Dean helping the orchestration, Scott could not only dip into Days Before Rodeo material but also play The Life of Pablo records with Kanye West and Kid Cudi attached. It made for easy transitions to his own Cudi tribute song, “through the night,” and even Rodeo’s “90210.”
When you know your audience, you're bound to trick them. During “90210,” one of the closest songs of his you’ll get to a warbled ballad, Scott asked the crowd to thrust a hand in the air. Most of them expected to mosh between bird shrieks, but instead he commanded them to wave back and forth. Throughout his hourlong set, many of the drained fans in attendance glanced over at one another, trying to pace themselves. One of them decided to make his way to the stage and rap “3500” back to Scott as if his life depended on it. The move genuinely amused Scott, though I doubt he had any rings to give to the young man.
Between rapping in the crowd, using someone's shoulders as a makeshift podium and more, Scott covered more ground in Revention than any artist that had come before him. Well, aside from the people who decided it was best to be in the balcony rather than on the ground floor. They got a middle finger from Scott for being “scared.” I call it being safe.
“If you're coming to the Kendrick Lamar tour, I'm gonna be there so I’ll see you motherfuckers there,” Scott notified the crowd just before closing with “goosebumps.” Then, in one final bit of surreality, a 25-year-old kid from Mo City led a sold-out venue in a rendition of “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”
Hey, even Scarface had to get a bird’s-eye view of Houston’s current biggest rap export.
So, About the Opener: Khalid has one of those meteoric rises you can try to make up but that still feel surreal. As the soothing, almost youthful opener on the Birds Eye View Tour, he's arguably the best contrast to Scott there can be. Playing off of ’80s-style riffs and synthesized pop, Khalid touched over a number of American Teen records like a seasoned veteran.
“This song is sad as shit, if you didn't know all my songs are sad as shit,” he told the crowd. I mean, I've watched 13 Reasons Why, so I doubt he could say something sad to, wait, never mind, he just told us a line in which he got his heart cut open and left to die. Less than a few moments later, he's revelatory in telling us he wrote his first-ever song about his ex. Was there any warmth to it? “Fuck that bitch,” he replied. Guess not.
You'd think a record like “Saved” would carry all of this detachment and angst; it's the kind of ballad in which you hung the old you out as a public effigy. Instead, the live version is somber, with Khalid standing in front of a microphone, flanked by a band ready to kick up shit when the time is right. For example, “Shot Down,” one of American Teen’s biggest ballads, gets twisted into a melancholy, humongous thing that is usually reserved for raised lighters and tributes to the friends you've lost along the way. In Khalid’s worldview, it's just another song you sing while on a long bus ride with your thoughts being your only passenger. “Young Dumb & Broke,” however, at least makes you want to get up and dance. Same for “8TEEN.”
Giving him a 45-minute set to toy around with a 55-minute album is pretty ballsy, even if the headliner was too busy watching James Harden and the Rockets look about as ridiculous as Sean Spicer and his mismatched shoes. But, as “Location” has proved, being the young singer who caters to a Snapchat / IG caption society has all the perks in the world.
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Personal Bias: There's a weird satisfaction about a kid from Mo City having the power to mess people’s heads up. Like him or not, Scott is a wizard of a performer.
The Crowd: Keep your distance from young kids who are already caked in sweat before 10 p.m. These are the youthful kind who would have loved Fyre Fest and elbow-dropping you as a form of stage-diving.
Random Notebook Dump: Leaving Revention, you could see a slew of fans wearing that basic yet effective “RUN AS ONE” T-shirt designed by Scott. You could hear loud “FUCK THE SPURS” chants throughout the night. Hurt is real; losing by 39 is even realer.
TRAVIS SCOTT SET LIST
Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1 (Kanye West cover)
through the late night
beibs in the trap
pick up the phone