Tyler, The Creator @ Pacific Coliseum: Review

Tyler, The Creator and Vince Staples Play Pacific Coliseum
Vince Staples by Tim Mosenfelder/Tyler, The Creator by Getty Images

If good times were measured in buckets of sweat, Tyler, The Creator and Vince Staples’ first tour stop at the Pacific Coliseum last night would take the cake. Between mosh pits, screamed choruses, and numerous people young and old having to be pulled out of the front of the crowd, Tyler and Vince had this mob of Vancouverites under their thumb.

The show kicked off with a DJ set from Odd Future alumni, Taco. Playing heavy, loud, bassy rap hits of the past decade to get the all ages crowd comfortable with the wall of sound that the Coliseum soundstage is able to create. Tracks like M.I.A.’s ‘Paper Planes’ had the whole crowd singing along and absolutely frothing with energy for the next set. Taco played for just over a half hour, directing the crowd through songs and having a fair bit of fun dancing along at his DJ booth.

Shortly after his set, a countdown timer began on the brightly illuminated Vince Staples stage setup. Numerous rotating displays/LED light boxes played a countdown from 7:45 minutes into mocked-up apocalyptic news messages about the current state of American politics, law enforcement, and the environment. Vince, clad in all black and wearing a bulletproof vest wasted no time getting to the music. Playing a mix of songs from as recent as his powerhouse 2017 record Big Fish Theory and taking the crowd all the way back to his original Hell Can Wait EP with songs like ‘Blue Suede.’ Vince may have not had much to say to the crowd through his hour-long set but his greater intention seemed to be that of communicating a message to his audience about the history of violence against African-Americans in the United States as well as the pressure cooker political climate the world is in due to the results of the 2016 U.S. election.

The crowd was receptive to Vince’s every move, his heavy technical flow played alongside such great overtones was enough to get the whole floor in a state of constant motion. It seems Vince’s numerous visits to Vancouver since his first one with Tyler, Danny Brown, and A$AP Rocky during the ‘Rocky and Tyler’ tour has truly cemented him as a Vancouver hip-hop fan favourite. Teasing the crowd with another countdown timer only to have it run back up into the heavy-bass track ‘745’ and playing ‘Norf Norf’ in front of images of lynchings, show that Vince truly wasn’t afraid to catch his audience off guard. Through it all the crowd stayed with him and as he left the stage with a big thank you, the set became no less energetic as light techs hurriedly dismantled his the stage to make way for what Tyler had planned.

The crowd, particularly close to the front, became a throbbing mass as people vied for a spot closer to the next performance even by a few inches. In the gap between those two sets, numerous people had to be lifted up and out of the crowd. This level of energy pales in comparison however to what happened when the stage curtain dropped to reveal Tyler, standing atop a 10-foot high synthetic tree trunk with his arms crossed, eyeing the crowd with mock disdain. It was as if every phone in the room went up to capture Tyler as well as the whole magical set. Clad in a green Golf Problem Child hat, white knit Golf sweater, burgundy Golf pants, and some new Converse x Tyler, The Creator Chuck Taylors the only thing that seemed to be new about the Flower Boy’s look was the Rancid frontman-esque leopard print haircut he was sporting.

Lit from behind in a magic forest of his own devising, he started the crowd out on Flower Boy favourite ‘Where This Flower Blooms’ and the crowd was all screams, shouts, and motion. People could not get enough of Tyler. This seemed to be the theme of the next hour, up front at the barrier, way back on the balcony seats, and right in the heart of the mosh pits people absolutely ate up each and every thing Tyler said and did. Moving into the Flower Boy B-side ‘Ziploc’ (a freestyle on Jay-Z’s 4:44 instrumental) immediately after his opening song seemed to point out that the audience really couldn’t guess what to expect from him that evening. Still, Tyler has kept his trademark cavalier attitude sharp in the years since his last visit. Stopping the opening line of ‘Boredom’ to tell the crowd that his lighting director mixed up the light cue. Pointing out that he knows that sort of thing is small but he wants to give us all “the best possible show” said with a gap-toothed smile as the crowd roared back. Shortly after playing his verse from (plus a short remix of) Frank Ocean’s ‘Biking’ Tyler had a question for the crowd. “Would you guys mind if I play my old s***?” The crowd went certifiably nuts for this statement as Tyler launched into the Wolf track featuring Pharrell, ‘IFHY.’

An aside on the features Tyler utilizes throughout his set. Many rappers choose to leave out or shorten songs that feature guest verses or contributions. Tyler however, never one to shy away from doing things a little differently must have got the OK from every single feature on his new record as the arena was constantly filled with hooks sung by the likes of Kali Uchis, Frank Ocean, and Rex Orange County. The crowd simply could not keep from singing along.

As Tyler played through a shortened version of ‘Smuckers’ (not before asking the crowd if they ever heard Cherry Bomb), the throwback portion of his set closed out with the first half of ‘Tamale’ because in being honest with the crowd Tyler announced “I don’t remember the lyrics.” Needless to say there were no hard feelings.

Tyler then proceeded to play the remaining seven tracks from Flower Boy, mentioning offhandedly that he’d be at the Grammys on Sunday in support of the records multiple nominations. It seems that every bit of his stage presences comes from a place of an immense feeling of personal achievement. His non-stop high energy dance moves coupled with his powerful delivery in moments high and low show as someone who is truly thankful of where they are. Not just because he feels he’s great at what he does but because he also worked so hard to be there.

Review by Maguire Stevens