On his biggest headlining tour to date, the Houston rapper had all of Little Caesars Arena in ‘Sicko Mode’
Detroit — Little Caesars Arena has hosted concerts, MMA fights, pro wrestling bouts, professional sporting events and more, but nothing in the building’s 15-month history has made its foundation shake quite like Wednesday night’s show from Travis Scott.
The Houston rapper, current landlord of the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart with his deliriously off-kilter “Sicko Mode,” had the LCA stands rattling during his high-energy hump day “Astroworld” tour stop. Fans who packed the general admission arena floor during the sold-out show pogo-jumped in unison throughout Scott’s 80-minute set, and fans in the stands followed suit, making the whole building feel like the inside of a Jell-O mold.
Live wire energy has long been Scott’s stock-in-trade; he performs like a downed power line dancing on the sidewalk. On his first arena tour, he has the backing of a production that matches his manic intensity and energy; his stage is outfitted with videos of vomiting cartoon children, a massive inflatable astronaut (outfitted in Scott’s signature Air Jordan IVs, no less), lasers, pyro, fireworks and not one but two functional roller coaster rigs.
The 26-year-old Scott has toned down the antagonism of past performances — he used to advocate for fans to rush security, which landed him in hot water on more than one occasion — and now is more of a raucous cheerleader for his audience. His crowd, mostly older teens and young 20-somethings, match his party-hard spirit and are there to blow off steam while capturing killer Instagram shots.
Scott, who gained a following thanks in part to early production credits on Kanye West’s “Cruel Summer” and “Yeezus” projects, fashioned his show loosely around the concept of Astroworld, a former amusement park in his hometown. Video interludes told a story involving Scott’s childhood visiting the park, which gave way to a sort of sci-fi “Westworld” theme, but there was nothing literal to interpret.
Instead, it was a canvas for Scott to present material from his three studio albums, multiple mixtapes and collaborations in as loud and grand a fashion as possible. He opened the show with “Stargazing,” the opening song from this year’s “Astroworld” set, and he hit the stage bouncing, displaying the kind of energy usually reserved for a locker room celebrating a big win.
For “Carousel,” he strapped himself to a circular roller coaster and did a full 360 loop; later he rode a roller coaster over the main floor crowd during “Can’t Say” and “Antidote.” (Tommy Lee’s recent complaints about Scott stealing — or at the very least borrowing — Mötley Crüe’s roller coaster stage concept are not without merit, though Lee should be happy the coaster the Crüe employed on its farewell outing was slightly more elaborate.)
There was little room for feelings other than outsize elation; Scott would run across the stage, jump in place, elicit a monster reaction from the crowd, and repeat steps one through three. He encouraged fans to “rage,” and rage they did; anyone wondering where all the energy in rock music has gone need look no further than Scott’s show. A generation ago these fans would have been in flannel shirts moshing to Rage Against the Machine; now they’re in streetwear hoodies letting loose with Travis Scott. The delivery systems may change, but the feelings don’t.
“Sicko World,” the strange, beat-morphing odyssey that ascended to the top of the Billboard’s singles chart this week, closed the show, stirring the crowd into one last fit of joy-rage. It’s Scott’s most transcendent single, and it’s the year’s most bewildering pop smash, befitting of a superstar who has climbed to the top without following any particular set of rules.
But beyond whipping up the crowd, waiting a few moments and doing it all over again, there’s not much to Scott as a performer. That might catch up to him later, but the “Astroworld” outing has the outsize vision to mask his limitations. There’s a ceiling to this kind of performance, but Scott found a workaround by blowing the lid off the place.
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