Future, Migos, And Tory Lanez, At Barclay Center, Friday, May 19th, 2017, Reviewed
Last night at Barclay’s Center I left in the middle of Future’s final song, the viral smash “Mask Off,” an evening that was perfect except for the one thing in the middle: Atlanta rapper Future himself. Even the sound was immaculate, I would claim the best sound I’ve heard at a rap concert, it made the biggest band in the world today, Migos, three voices blend much, much better, and, of course, it meant that gunshots on a song after the show ended sounded really real. I was gone by then, of course, but by a bad piece of timing the stage being dismantled moved too fast and the two together sounded like gunfire and caused a stampede to the exits. A handful of minor injuries but also a reminder of how touchy folks can be at rap concerts like the big business “Nobody Safe Tour”.
What gives with Future? This third time I’ve seen him and the third time his charismatic, hotshot, two bad bitches at the same damn time, pissing codeine persona has faltered on stage. Say the first time in 2015 was near the end of a long long night (here), and the next time, in the middle of Drake’s set, succeeded because it was so short (here), as a headliner he played his Drake set again and for a headliner it wasn’t good enough. A half hour of high speed, verse segued, greatest hits and gone, a break, and then another half hour… I settled down for “Same Damn Time” and it was already over. “Rent Money,” “Itchin’,” “Same Sisters” -I can’t keep track, I wanna hear the songs, I don’t want a taste of three dozen songs, sure Future’s catalog is large but that doesn’t mean he had to play 34 songs. In an hour. That is an average of 90 seconds a song and even that is misleading -he went long here and there. Where? On “New Level” – A$AP Ferg’s song, and “Jumperman” where he lets Drake do the heavy lifting ON BACKUP TAPES. Maybe if he had stopped acting like an opening act he’d have had the time to, you know, perform the songs. Future isn’t a subtle rapper but he isn’t the shallow cocksman his lyrics appear to portray him as, everything is shaded, he is like Drake after therapy, his sense of moral guidance, his uncertainty, is all in his voice, he pulls forward a deep sense of what the price of hedonism might be… but not on stage. I used to believe it was laziness but now I think he doesn’t know what he is doing. With a huge stage to work, he can’t work it -he keeps to the edge of the stage and moves back and forth, his dancing is nothing special, his dancers useless, and his rapping rote. There is NO CONNECTION between man and audience, everything he says his cliche, that “I think this is the loudest audience this tour” is lifted straight off Drake’s “Sixteen Summer” gig. So is leaving the stage halfway through, by which I mean a half hour into the set, hell he needs a break after half an hour? Why?His DJ Esco performs fine and then we get A Boogie Wit A Hood, who opened for Drake in 2016 and has two sold out shows at Playstation later this year, and is just awesome. The New Yorker is one of the most gifted rappers out there, he is young but he keeps it actually real with his songs of heartbreak and girls. Future finishes off the evening with three huge songs, “Fuck Up Some Commas,” “March Madness,” segueing into “Mask Off” and it ain’t close to what he needs to be doing.
Opening the evening was Tory Lanez, a terrific rapper who brought out a live bassist with him! You might know his hit “Luv” but I had missed his dancehall meets rap sound (not reggaeton, it is about beats and patois to real rap) and his fifteen minute set made a believer of me.
Next was Migos. Migos are the biggest band in the world not called the Chainsmokers. Also, unlike the Chainsmokers, they are complete innovators. No, they didn’t invent trap but they perfected it and made it matter, they are monster hook merchants and they are a blend of voices than unlike the de rigeur everybody shout at the same time of rap since the beginning of time, sounds Dolly-Emmylee-Linda integrated voices and sounds. On record, Quavo’s voice is so unique he feels like a center but on stage he is one of three pieces that merge together and dismiss each other. Quavo will be autotuned while Takeoff and Offset are declarative on some songs, harmony on others. Nobody in rap is more about the sound of voices than Migos, and they get the loudest response of the evening. Listen to “Kelly Price” -it is like they are playing with digits in the air, doctored through the Pro Tools, Quavo takes the lead, Takeoff sings the hook and Offset harmonizes. They’ve been around since 2009 and this is their moment.