A lot of artists try to create a specific atmosphere at their shows. Whether it's contrived or not, their most loyal fans will still rock to the rhythm, bopping up and down in a sea of robotic-looking arms.
On Thursday night, Chicago-bred Chance the Rapper took the Electric Factory stage and created a concert vibe of his own, only the "Family Matters" tour atmosphere wasn't insincere. It was inescapable.
Up-and-coming "Cha Cha" singer D.R.A.M. and "What A Time To Be Alive" producer Metro Boomin' couldn't make the show in time because of an issue at the Canadian border. Chance, real name Chancelor Bennett, didn't allow that snafu to dampen the mood of his performance. It quickly became clear it was as much about loving him as it was about loving yourself.
He opened with an affirmation: "Everybody's somebody's everything," Chance crooned raspily in the track "Everybody's Something" from 2013's Acid Rap.
Wearing a black Chicago White Sox hat, a white tee and khaki pants, Chance transitioned to another song of his debut, the drug-themed, innuendo-laced "Pusha Man," and then to the mixtape's "Smoke Again."
Chance once told MTV he was on acid about 30 percent of the time he composed his namesake mixtape, but the artist often gets deeper than just superficial smoke and chill. In "Smoke Again," he raps, "killin' in the hood like I'm Trayvon," a reference to Trayvon Martin, a black teen killed in Florida in 2012.
Following his three-song round-up, Chance coyly introduced himself, as if the now-packed venue had no idea whose lyrics they chanted with near perfection.
"I'm Chance the Rapper," he said, "and I'm here to do some songs off my mixtape Acid Rap. " The crowd, from which plumes of smoke occasionally puffed into the air, went wild.
The love spread throughout his performance translated not only into self-love, but also into something for the ladies, whom the 22-year-old rapper shouted out more than twice.
"It's the way you walk, the way you talk, babe," Chance sang to his lady-fans, covering Kehlani's chorus on "The Way," a song on which he's featured. Following the steamy bit, he went on about a woman who wanted to stay the night, but whom he had to ward off because "I got church in the morning."
Keeping the righteous tone, Chance smoothly transitioned into serious subject matter as he rapped "Paranoia," the second part of the aforementioned "Pusha Man."
"They're killing kids. They're killing kids here," he rapped, variating the original lyrics a bit. "Where the f--- is Matt Lauer at? Somebody get Katie Couric in here," the rapper nearly pleaded. The song denounces the violence that plagues his native Chicago.
Chance grew up the son of two government officials — his mother, Lisa Bennett, works for the state attorney general's office while his father, Ken Bennett, is a regional representative for the U.S. secretary of labor. Chance's music, and his actions outside of music, often takes a political turn. He recently launched a citywide anti-violence campaign and when, before bringing opener D.R.A.M. onstage late, Chance spoke negatively about border patrol, he came back and admitted he misspoke.
"Brothers, Sisters, Family," Chance said, "I love you." He then launched into a briefly sentimental moment, describing the "Family Matters" tour as a necessary part of each touring artists' life right now.
Leading into "Interlude (That's Love)," he encouraged the crowd to chant "I love you." And they did. The kind words literally filled the dark, semi-intimate arena. And again, while singing his soulful, reggae-tinged rendition of the Arthur show theme song (yes, the PBS Kids television show), the packed crowd mimicked the artist by repeating "Everyday, it could be wonderful."
Chance held a rap concert, yes, but moments like these radiated powerful positivity ... almost like church. So, aptly, Chance led into "Sunday Candy" from his newly acclaimed project Surf, done with Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment, who accompanied the artist.
For every moment of sweetness, there was one of let-loose dancing. For every moment of snark, there was one of introspection. And with that, Chance the Rapper's "Family Matters" tour was intentional and complete.
He left the crowd with an Acid Rap throwback reminder of exactly who Chance the Rapper is.