Travis Scott’s “Astroworld – Wish You Were Here” Tour At Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, November 27th, 2018, Reviewed
“If you wanna be a bystander take your motherfucking ass home,” Travis Scott raged early in his exemplary “Astroworld” set. It was a night for ragers, and raging, a victory lap but no, too early for that: a victory tour. After five years, Astroworld has brought Scott to the top of the rap world, Astroworld is to The Life Of Pedro what Thank Me Later is to 808s And Heartaches -it peels off a concept , taking sampling to the place of appropriation, and makes it Travis’ own. I wrote this about Travis Scott 18 months ago (here): “He is a charmless blowhard, atrocious both times I’ve seen him, he autotuned his voice to extinction, and despite maybe three solid bangerz, each song sounded the same. Most of the time he was flying over the stage on a bird but at one point he touched down and stopped a security guy from strangling a kid in the audience, “Spread love is the Brooklyn way,” he claimed. That was the set highlight.”. That was then, at MSG last night all complaints were negated as the 26 year old rapper had fully grown into his role as a top pop performer.
This was the biggest show of Travis’s career, big in every way, from top notch opening acts, to a staging that is simply miles ahead of everyone, to even Travis $800,000,000 partner Kylie Jenner (“my wife Kylie is here tonight”) and mon to his daughter Stormi, dancing in the green room, to a a sold out to the rafters insanely excited audience, and finally a rapper on the very tip top of his form. About the audience, 80% white, 50% female, late teens to mid-20s, getting the rage on and then some. These kids were ready for this and all Travis had to do was provide it. I mean, not just his 30 odd songs and verses, but the entire evening, the entire experience like going to an amusement park (the real one referenced here was 56 acres of 6 Flags stuff, closed forever in 2005).
The evening started with merch tables everywhere, expensive as well, a short sleeve shirt was $45, and different merch at every table -I mean different designs. This is the modern big time pop concert, clothing is part of the experience. Still, the merch was ace and the ticket said 730pm so, if they are anything like U2 that means 830p. Well, they aren’t. At 730 on the dot, the Senegalese rapper via Harlem, Sheck Wes was on stage. Wes broke through about a month ago with “Mo Bamba” -a highlight, as was “Wanted” and “Live Sheck Wes” -all from the just dropped Mudboy, all fast, hard, rap beauties and all very well performed. With half an hour to cement his reputation, Wes crushed it. Which is more than can be said for Trippie Redd. I was very looking forward to Trippie Redd, with XXX-tentacion and Lil Peep dead, and Ski Mask The Slump God though popular, still not quite there in the public conscious, it was up to Trippie to hold the cloud rap banner. And the nineteen year old did just that on the November release A Love Letter To You 3. It didn’t translate on stage. With everything to gain, Trippie was lousy for eighteen minutes straight, it reminded me of a cloud rap fest at Webster Hall la couple of years ago, when he just dropped. With one job to do, stand there and rap or sing, Trippie was a mess, wasting minutes talking to his DJ, minutes forming mosh pits, and rapping and singing along to backing tapes as the mood took him. “Did he suck?” I muttered to a girl sitting next to me. “He’s from Florida,” she replied. That would explain it. Gunna was third and Gunna has a great voice, his work with Lil Baby is so good, and he didn’t give away his shot. Of course, while the man has a great voice, he is relatively average. Here is Gunna’s entire Wikipedia entry: “Gunna was born in College Park, Georgia. He grew up listening to Cam’ron, and Outkast, among others. He has one half-brother named Suheyb Ali Isse. Gunna was introduced to Young Thug through Keith Troup, a mutual friend and community figure who died in December 2015”.
\Whatever you might claim for rap, any problems it has are coming to an end. Travis had presented a strong, tight, self controlled, evening of state of the art rap, that insulted absolutely nobody by being punctual and present and correct. And then he got better. Opening on the small stage (and, hysterically, forcing the General Admission ragers to rush from one side of MSG to the other) he began with “Stargazing” before getting on a “Ferris Wheel” and rapping while, quite literally, upside down. Both Gunna and Sheck Wes are on the album. What Travis does on the album is mix and match from some top rappers and come up with something new. On record. Live, he opens with bangerz, moves on to psychedelic jams, and ends with bangerz. All done with tapes, computers, synths, autotune, and more tapes (to say he doesn’t play his own instruments is to misunderstand how music is made in 2018), it was earth shatteringly loud from the very beginning, but the sound was great, it was nothing like the bass heavy crap that happens way too often, even today. The tracking was way great mixed, and the audience, who were ready and waiting on it, went berserk. By the time Travis got on a roller coaster and sang “Sicko Mondo” while tearing through MSG. the only thing left to do was consider going to the second show (today, Wednesday November 28th!).
However, lyrical this is very iffy money for god’s sake stuff, all drugs and bitches that seems to work against the sound , this lyrical badness just infects the music; there is a reluctance to deal with life. And while hiding for, or at least hiding in plain sight with, huge opulence, isn’t a bad idea as such, these Generation Z rappers are getting old, fast. Travis is a middle class kid (his Mom worked for Apple), and he pursued his art, improved on it, and yesterday he sounded better live then he does on record. The ragers got what they deserved. Maybe they can try and grow up a little…