On Saturday, Tyler, The Creator kicked off the second American leg of his tour at Merriweather Post Pavilion alongside Jaden Smith and GoldLink. This tour celebrates the release of his latest album, Igor, which many consider to be his best album yet.
I’m not a big concert-goer, and this show promised to be the largest I had ever been to. As a result, I was a little nervous going in, but any anxiety was matched a hundred times over with excitement.
When I arrived at the venue, I was met with mixed emotions. On the one hand this looked like a full out fashion show. Tyler’s influence on fashion was apparent as I mingled among the crowd of Odd Future, Golf Wang and Comme des Garçons fits. I’m quite sure they were not as impressed with my Walmart get-up.
On the other hand, I saw a few more young people than I had expected. Walking past a 14-year-old kid decked out in a full Supreme fit, followed closely by a parent double-fisting $12 beer, certainly made me question my music tastes in the moment.
My group was mainly able to stay out of the middle-schooler’s way, but I have to admit, it was awkward watching some people a few rows down from us light up a certain decriminalized substance 10 feet away from a girl who couldn’t have been more than 11 years old.
At exactly 7 p.m., as the sun was setting, GoldLink burst out of stage to his viral pop-rap banger, “Crew.” Some people jumped up from their lawn blankets and ran as far forward as they could make it, but the wiser among the crowd, like my group, hung back and saved our energy for what became a three-and-a-half-hour marathon of a concert. Sure, “Crew” absolutely slaps, but I was skeptical of what more he could bring to the table.
Unfortunately, my skepticism was justified. Throughout the rest of his set, it seemed like GoldLink spent more time asking the crowd to mosh, dance or wave their hands than he actually did performing. Before the end of any song, whatever moshpit he had created was long dead as the crowd waited for the next segment to start. Finally, he shouted, “I hate when people come to Merriweather and stand there and look at me like I’m a d*ckhead.” After that, he played “Crew” once more and quickly made his way off stage.
Before we get to Jaden, I want to make something clear. I think Jaden Smith makes music that’s as close to objectively bad as possible in a subjective artform. That being said, I will try to be as non-biased towards him as I can be.
He was pretty good! I’m no convert, but the aesthetic he put on was nice and his setlist was cohesive. His Fortnite dancing was pretty cringey, but the man can moonwalk! The entire show was accompanied by a background video that nicely accented a lighting rig that was far more complex than the previous act.
Unfortunately the screens projecting the videos for us in the back died halfway through his set. Jaden’s stamina was impressive; he took only one brief pause in the middle of a 50 minute set.
But 50 minutes? That’s too long for an opener, especially when there are two. By the end of it, you could hear a collective groan from all the non-fans whenever he started another song. A 40 minute break only made it worse. I’m not gonna lie, I was getting cranky. We were already more than two hours into the show.
Then, the lights dimmed, a spotlight shone on the middle of the stage and the crowd erupted. Tyler slowly walked out onto the stage with his head down and just stood there, right in that same spot for the entirety of the mostly instrumental “IGOR’S THEME.” He remained fairly tame for the first few songs, performing selections from the calmer section of the album, before going absolutely buck wild for “NEW MAGIC WAND.” As this first section concluded, Tyler again switched back to a more relaxed character and walked to the grand piano to tease the audience with an instrumental version of “EARFQUAKE,” to which the audience sang along. He then did a full performance of the song.
By this time, the backdrop had changed to this disjointed, multilayered screen composed of silver tinsel, with Tyler projected against it in black and white. After six tracks off of IGOR, he finally broke character to ask the crowd two questions: “The first question is where the fuck am I right now?... I don’t know where the fuck I am.” As some members of the front row tried to explain that we were somewhere between D.C. and Baltimore, he asked if we’d like to hear some older stuff, while simultaneously informing us that he didn’t care about our answer; he was going to do it anyway.
I thought that this was a nice gesture. Flower Boy is one of my favorite albums ever, so when “911 / Mr. Lonely” started playing, I got really into it (I bobbed my head). He even went back to his first albums, Wolf and Goblin. To be fair, he wasn’t thrilled about all of it, mumbling, “For you incels, I’m going to do it,” before playing “Yonkers.”
What surprised me the most about his performance was the level of energy Tyler was able to maintain. More than an hour into his act, his suit drenched in sweat, he was still able to make “Boredom” his most hype performance of the evening. But after that point he started to calm everything down. He thanked everyone for coming to the Igor Tour before his last track of the evening, “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?”
As Tyler headed off stage, I had completely forgotten about the underwhelming performances that had preceded him. His energy and personality soaked up all the attention of the night. If I had to do it again, I would be more than happy to sit through whatever you want to call GoldLink and Jaden’s performance to see the masterpiece that Tyler put on.