Show Review: Chance The Rapper At Echo Beach

By Angelo Gio Mateo, Feature Photo via Live Nation

I hate Echo Beach. It’s inaccessible and difficult to get to by public transit or by Uber. Anakin Skywalker would have hated all of the sand: it’s coarse, rough, irritating, and it gets everywhere. But tonight is Chance the Rapper’s second sold-out show in Toronto and the masses flocking towards Ontario Place are visibly excited.

Chance the Rapper was last in Toronto at the Sound Academy back in November for the “Family Matters” tour. Both shows shared similar qualities: inaccessible venue, all-ages, and an annoying crowd. However, since his last visit to Toronto, Chance has grown sonically and as a young artist. He provided a show-stealing verse (his best yet) on “Ultralight Beam” — the first song on his childhood hero Kanye West’s latest album The Life of Pablo. He then released the long-anticipated third “mixtape,” Coloring Book, to critical acclaim.

Francis and the Lights began the night, playing songs off his newly released album, Farewell, Starlite! It was immediately apparent that very few understood who he was, let alone cared. Some booed and called for Chance. I explained to those around me that Francis’ song, “Friends” was sampled for Chance’s “Summer Friends.” Explaining Francis and the Lights’ connections with Chance the Rapper and Kanye West certainly silenced their heckling. While I did like his new album, a combination of technical difficulties and awkward dancing kept the crowd from truly enjoying his set. However, the crowd was pleasantly surprised when Chance appeared on stage with Francis to perform the choreography in the music video for “Friends.” Chance disappeared after the song, Francis ended his set, and the crowd grew restless waiting. Two puking incidents and a couple of rude people shoving through under the guise of “my friend is up there”— the show was already off to an underwhelming start.

It is a testament to Chance the Rapper’s unique talent and personality that he is able to single-handedly make the whole experience absolutely worth it. He began his set with his biggest songs to get the crowd jumping. It was just as fun as the first time to scream “Lean all on the square, now that’s a f*cking rhombus,” on “Smoke Again.” Mid-show, a cartoon lion puppet known as “Carlos the Lion” appeared on stage to admonish Chance. Throughout the show, Carlos served as an old friend of Chance and as a guiding elder — but he could have also represented Chance’s subconscious, trying to tell us the story of his life. Throughout the show, Chance introduced other puppets, including a whole choir that provided him back-up vocals. It was like something out a kids show like Yo Gabba Gabba or Sesame  and that feeling was certainly not coincidental.

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Photo by Angelo Gio Mateo

What Chance does best is channel millennial nostalgia in his music to evoke emotion. In his song “Same Drugs”—which isn’t about drugs—he uses the movie Hook and the story of Peter Pan and Wendy as a metaphor for growing up and friends growing apart. On “Sunday Candy”, Chance sings about going to church with his grandma. As he sang, “You better come on in this house, cause it’s gonna rain,” it actually began to drizzle upon Echo Beach. Alongside the Harry Potter and The Lion King references on “How Great,” and the memories of summers past on “Summer Friends,” Chance taps into the collective memory of our childhoods.

Longing for the past is important, but for a “Christian rapper” like Chance, he challenges his fans to collectively face the future with faith that things will be alright, regardless of what you believe in. Chance and his puppet choir would have fit in as an evangelical gospel choir, singing hymns and performing a call-and-response with the crowd, just as in black evangelical churches. Chance acted as the Reverend, asking us to sing, “How great is our God.” He asked us if we were ready for our blessings. I wonder how many people in the crowd understood that this was truly a gospel service and they were essentially singing Christian hymns.

Ultimately, Chance the Rapper’s show was a spectacle and absolutely worth the inaccessibility, the crowds, and the money. Chance just wanted to have a good time and tell his story. It came with the theatrics with the life-size puppets, but it resonated with the emotions of the crowd. Playing live with Peter CottonTale on the keys and Donnie Trumpet, life-long collaborators with Chance on The Social Experiment, only made the performance even stronger. Donnie riffed and improvised on some of the songs, giving a unique experience that can only be felt live. There was an encore of “Summer Friends,” ending with a blessing by Chance’s grandmother and then an outro of the Arthur theme song cover, “Everyday Wonderful.” The real crescendo of the show occurred when Chance ended his set with the reprise of “Blessings.” At one point, it seemed that Chance was holding back tears, brushing something off from his eyes. In an almost prayer-like speech, he emphasized that true blessings were not in his album or in his show. The blessing was not him. It was never about him. The blessings and better times were still to come, a testament to this young 22-year-old’s hard earned wisdom and growth.

With the CN Tower lighting up the night in the background in yellow and red and blue and green, the night was truly colourful and magnificent.

Rough Setlist:

  1. Angels
  2. Blessings
  3. Pusha Man
  4. Smoke Again
  5. Cocoa Butter Kisses
  6. Acid Rain
  7. Smoke Break
  8. Juke Jam
  9. Same Drugs
  10. Baby Blue (Action Bronson cover)
  11. The Way (Kehlani cover)
  12. Ultralight Beam (Kanye West cover)
  13. No Problem
  14. Mixtape
  15. All Night
  16. D.R.A.M. Sings Special
  17. Grown Ass Kid
  18. Sunday Candy
  19. All We Got
  20. How Great
  21. Finish Line / Drown
  22. Blessings (Reprise)

Encore

  1. Summer Friends
  2. Friends (Francis and the Lights version, Francis appears to dance)
  3. Everyday Wonderful (Theme from Arthur)

 

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