Published Sep 28, 2016Like any preacher who drains his heart and soul into his sermons, Chancellor Bennett wants you to feel his verses. It's not enough to just stand there and listen.
So when Chance The Rapper's favourite verse on his favourite song off his newest and best album-slash-mixtape-but-really-an-album didn't get the response he desired, he stopped mid-song, urged the congregation to let the spirit in, and rewound. After 90 minutes of dancing, spitting enthusiasm, Chance wanted to end the night on a high note, even if it took two tries.
The rapper's favourite rhyme on Coloring Book — voted the best album of the first half of 2016 by this publication — is the second stanza of "Summer Friends," the one that touches on his absentee father, his hardworking mother and the friendships he let slide.
It's a pretty song torched with sadness and sprinkled with hope, the greyness of everyday Chicago brought to life with a poet's Technicolor pencil. Chance's "Magnificent Coloring World Tour," which he'll ride all the way to Australia and all the way until 2017, is rammed full of these songs. On paper, Chance's scripture can read like the blues; in person, it blooms like hallelujahs.
Lake Ontario was glassy calm and the air a warm 20°C when the 23-year-old sprinted onstage to the triumphant "Angels," followed in rapid succession by "Blessings," then Acid Rap's "Pusha Man" and personal favourite "Cocoa Butter Kisses." The tour-edition jean jacket he wore, atop a white tee and beige slacks, didn't survive song three.
"I wanna see you guys off your fuckin' feet. This is a sold-out show. Two nights!" he hollered. "I need you to shake this bitch, if that's okay."
A hyper burst into 2013's bouncy "Favorite Song" kicked off a brief foray into early mixtape gems before Chance and his backing band, the Donnie Trumpet–led Social Experiment, got around to performing every single track off Coloring Book.
A high point was a medley of Chance's cameos on friends' records, notably his scene-stealing turns on Action Bronson's "Baby Blue" and Kanye West's "Ultralight Beam." (Side note: Famed music exec Kevin Liles recently revealed on a podcast that he questioned Kanye for allowing such an overshadowing verse on his own LP.)
It may be nitpicking, but I felt like some of the stronger tracks, like "Mixtape," got cut off too quickly, and some of the crowd-pleasing monsters, like "No Problem," arrived too early in a set list that needed rearranging.
Not a huge issue, though, particularly when Chance delivers quality, quantity and creativity in spades.
Oh, did we mention the puppets yet? There were puppets onstage, too. Carlos the Lion, who acted both as hypeman and bizarre comic relief, popped up for between-song skits, while an unnamed female flapper-era Muppet lent a hand on the wonderful "Same Drugs." By the time Chance hit the home stretch, a full 19-Muppet chorus popped up to flesh out "Finish Line" and "Blessings."
Childish, sure, but in the best way imaginable, equal parts power and whimsy.