A$AP Rocky, Tyler The Creator, Danny Brown, and Vince Staples brought the party to Clarkston, Michigan’s DTE Music Theatre to give summer a fitting farewell.
The Rocky and Tyler Tour made its way to Michigan on September 26th, 2015. Right off the bat, the venue knew they were in for a trip, and as a result, security was tripping!
The first act was up and coming Los Angeles rapper, Vince Staples. Staples had some early exposure thanks to some collaborations with Tyler, The Creator’s biggest Odd Future rival, Earl Sweatshirt, but Staples has been making quite the name for himself thanks to his cult favorite EP, Hell Can Wait, and his 2015 double album, Summertime 06, which is currently making waves in the hip-hop world.
Staples’ set was short, but sweet, as to be expected from an opening act on a big tour of this nature. Longtime fans may be disappointed that older songs off his Shyne Coldchain mixtapes and early features were left out of the set in favor of his most recent material, though it has been awhile since Staples has played those songs as it is. Still, the songs fans did get to hear definitely got the show popping off early with gangsta rap hardness that made the employees of the very suburban venue shake in their boots.
The banter was very enjoyable as well. Staples is known for clowning on fans at shows all in good fun, and did not disappoint here. Very aware how suburban the venue was, Vince went back and forth with his DJ about how close to Detroit they were, and how many fans were able to get a good spot due to the relatively high ticket paywalls. I have never laughed so hard while being made an example of white privilege. Vince Staples’ set was a great time that got me excited at what was to come the rest of the night.
Next on the bill was Detroit’s own Danny Brown. Danny is best known today for his cartoony voice and flow, complimented well by his choice of EDM-style beats- a combination makes for one of the most entertaining and energetic live shows in all of music.
Brown’s set was just about everything I could have asked for given the circumstance. I got as hype as I could standing in front of my chair, though I wanted nothing more than to be losing my mind jumping around and jumping off of whatever was nearest like I normally would at a Danny Brown concert, but his performance made up for it. The setlist consisted heavily of songs off his album Old, with one song off XXX, and a couple of his one off singles. Danny was joined onstage by his Bruiser Brigade comrade xDOPEHEADx A.K.A. King Jxxky as his hype man, which as a big Bruiser fan, was awesome to see. Danny kept it lit, for the most part sticking to his party songs for a show of this setting. It would have been nice to hear “Kush Coma” to see Danny and A$AP Rocky trade bars live, but I’m not complaining as Brown is great at knowing the right songs to play in the setting he is in and knows how to perform them well. Brown has a very fast flow, and a voice with an incredible range that can flip on a dime in his music, and was able to translate that live almost perfectly. Brown did not miss a single lyric, and did not fall short of pitch once. I only wish he got more time on stage.
By this point in the show, it’s getting time for the heavyweights to start performing. Tyler, The Creator had an elaborate bedroom toy box prop set erected for his performance that he would soon be jumping all over. From the get go, it was clear Tyler was uncomfortable.
“Last time I played here, I almost got arrested!” Tyler declared during his set. Police were standing side stage waiting for the Odd Future mastermind and Golf Wang CEO to do something they deemed unacceptable and shut the show down. This made for an undoubtedly toned down set from Tyler, coming from someone who has been to every single Tyler show that has ever been in Michigan and one in California.
Still, maxed-out venue and rent-a-cops aside, the performance quality was not diminished. Tyler’s musicianship has never been given a reason to be put into question, and this night was no different. Tyler powered through a set of his more recent material. Longtime fans may be disappointed in the absence of songs off Bastard and Radical, but like I said for Vince Staples, this has been the case for a while. Still, there was a mysterious disappearance of a very popular song from Tyler’s set that made me scratch my head, but I won’t spoil it for future concert attendees. However, the Wolf and Cherry Bomb heavy set with sprinkles of Goblin went very well and was honestly one of the better Tyler performances I have witnessed, based on sheer performance quality alone.
There was quite the stretch of time between Tyler and the impending A$AP Rocky, and was shrouded in mystery behind the giant black curtain that had been placed on stage. Before too long, the curtain dropped, revealing a stunning, multi-floor flashing light apparatus, and Rocky himself obscured in shadows behind lights and fog in true A$AP fashion.
Rocky’s performance stretched more than the length of your average album, featuring bangers and grooves from his two most recent projects, 2013’s Live Love A$AP, and this years At Long Last A$AP, with a couple other known singles for good measure. While I was hoping to hear some songs off his seminal mix tape that brought A$AP into the consciousness of the public, the performance was so stellar that it honestly did not cross my mind.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of A$AP Mob and was definitely looking forward to seeing Rocky live, but I was shocked and awed at his performance. Rocky knows how to put on a show and rock a crowd, no pun intended. For starters, the sound was impeccable. Nothing felt out of mix whatsoever, and Rocky’s tone was intact and his words were enunciated and came through perfectly the entire time. Everything was in its right place and nothing was obscured. The crowd was singing every word to every song. The music was all well placed, even the special bonuses. Rocky brought out opener Vince Staples to give him a true opportunity to shine and let him perform one of his own songs with Rocky’s rockstar level production and his riled up crowd. He also brought Danny Brown back out to perform their collaborative track “1 Train” which was easily the highlight of his performance.
Apart from just the music, the stage production was amazing. I’ve never seen such an elaborate setup at a hip-hop show before. Like I said before, there was this multi-floor light grid. On the second floor, left and right sides, were Rocky’s DJs, and Rocky periodically made his way up, down, and all around the grid to create a unique aesthetic for each song. When “L$D” dropped, the grid went gold and Rocky backed up behind the grid and rapped behind fog before coming back out to sing along with the audience. On the flipside, when his dubstep party anthem collab with Skrillex, “Wild For The Night” dropped, Rocky bounced around everywhere on the stage and floors of the setup while relentless strobes flashed and illuminated the early fall night.
His banter with the crowd was appreciated and genuine. Rocky seemed sincerely happy to be not only performing for us, but to be where he was. He talked about how big a fan he was of close friend and tour mate, Danny Brown, and how being in Danny’s hometown always makes him feel at home. He even cracked a joke towards Wiz Khalifa, whose previous concert was allegedly the reason for that night’s security crackdown. Rocky was just happy to be there, and made it a point that he is an artist that wants to be all-inclusive and loves seeing every type of person at his concert, regardless of race, gender, or clique. It created a euphorically positive vibe for his performance that really relieved the tension between the performers, security, and fans all night. It made the show that much more enjoyable.
Vince, Danny, Tyler, and Rocky gave Michigan a fitting farewell to the summer concert season on this tour. If it’s coming to your town, you owe it to yourself to go and have one last turn up, especially if you live in a place like me where the cold hits fast and relenting. Treat yourself! (Johnny Athey)