Rap concerts sure have come a long way from the days when the most exciting thing to look at was Snoop Dogg's uncle twirling a towel in the back corner of the stage. Saturday's sold-out Travis Scott concert was one of the genre's farthest-reaching visual productions yet.
Following on the pyro-singed heels of Drake, J. Cole and Jay-Z — all reaching for a bar set by his fellow Kardashian-in-law Kanye West's hi-fi tours — Scott literally brought an amusement park's array of bells, whistles, stunts and tricks to Minneapolis. (He also brought his wife Kylie Jenner and their infant daughter, setting off a minor tsunami on social media.)
The staging was based on his third album, "Astroworld," nominated for three Grammys a day earlier and named after the now-defunct, Texas-sized, Six Flags theme park in his hometown of Houston.
Scott, 26, strapped into a Super Loop-type ride and rolled upside down at the beginning of the show. He rode a roller-coaster over the heads of the 15,000 fans during a couple of songs near the end. In between, he blew up a giant inflatable astronaut and danced under an arcade's worth of lasers and lights. Oh, and he rapped, too.
The 80-minute set started with a sleight of hand. Scott first appeared on the smaller B-stage at the back end of the arena. This set off a rampage of young concertgoers running across the general-admission arena floor, after they had stood for a couple of hours pressed up tightly against the main stage and waited out a long gap left by the absence of one of three scheduled openers, Trippie Redd.
That patient lull quickly gave way to a hyperactive pace once Scott came out. He tore through six songs in about 15 minutes on the small stage, starting with "Stargazing" and "Carousel" — also the two opening tracks on "Astroworld" — and culminating with one of his 2014 breakout cuts, "Mamacita."
The one production gadget that really matched and complemented his performance was the bank of vents that blew sudden blasts of smoke up from both stages. Scott's rapping style through much of the show similarly came off like a fast-rolling steam-train, all grrr and very little purr.
His frenzied delivery felt a little too blunt-forceful and overblown by the time he thundered through "Don't Play" and "3500" deeper into the set, but the crowd never seemed to tire of giving back its own unhinged response. Once fans on the floor finally settled/crushed back into place in front of the main stage, they still found room (and energy) to excitedly jump up and down to the unusually loud and hard-booming beats, mimicking what seemed to be Scott's only dance move.
Things cooled down for a short while starting with the oddball mixtape nugget "Drugs You Should Try It," one of several in a row during which he turned more melodic and used Auto-Tune as a foggy, psychedelic vocal effect. The chill tempo continued through "Love Galore," a collaboration on record with red-hot R&B singer SZA, and one of the few sexually laced songs of the night that actually sounded sexy.
Things picked back up as Scott returned to songs from "Astroworld," which made up almost half of the 31-song set list in the end. He delivered the album tracks "5% Tint" and "Can't Say" from the roller-coaster car — kind of a dud gimmick in the end, as he just slowly rolled back and forth a few times over the crowd.
A bigger wow came from the pandemonium set off throughout the arena by the final song, "Sicko Mode," right now No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart and the main reason "Astroworld" returned to No. 1 on the albums chart last week. Scott didn't brag about that double-whammy, but he did look ahead with a cocksure attitude to the Grammy Awards on Feb. 10, where he's up for best rap album, rap performance and rap song.
"Every night till that day, I just want to prove this is one of the illest records of all time," he said.
It's rather doubtful the record will receive that kind of designation from hip-hop historians, but at least the "Astroworld" tour will go down as a memorable one.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658