March 10, 2019
Vince Staples and his “Smile You’re On Camera” tour rolled through The Agora on Wednesday night. Since 2015, Vince has released three of the most critically acclaimed, year-ending-chart-topping hip hops albums: Summertime ’06, Big Fish Theory and FM! He still feels that he's underrated as a rapper and underappreciated by a wide main-stream audience, but is currently in the middle of his largest, most ambitious headlining tour to date.
Vince is on stage by himself, no crew, no hype man, it's just him in front of a large screen that spans the entirety of the stage. He’s on camera, the crowd is on camera and the screen plays back pre-recorded videos that look as if they are taken by a surveillance camera. The usage of the LED screen made the set have a real cinematic feel to it and really brings the crowd into the immediacy of the moment. From the second Mr. Staples took the stage with “Feels Like Summer,” the crowd was fully on tilt and the fever pitch frenzy picked up as he breezed through “Don’t Get Chipped,” “Lift Me Up,” “Street Punks,” and two of my personal favorites: “Relay” and “War Ready.”
The venue wasn’t full, but the energy from the audience (that Vince gave back ten-fold) made it feel like it was. The hard beats and bass hit hard and sounded fully through The Agora. Not only is Vince a talented rapper who doesn’t skimp on production, but his lighting and sound guy deserve a notable round of applause for keeping the show going off without a hitch.
While the crowd was into the show all evening the hits “745” and “Norf Norf” where the loudest points of the set. On stage Vince is a man of few words, which comes as a surprise from someone who is as outspoken as he is on Twitter and in interviews. He ended the show by thanking the crowd, telling us he may never see us again and gave a shout out to his close friend, the recently-deceased Mac Miller. The gig ended with a video of Mac Miller’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert playing on the back screen followed by “Rest in Peace Mac Miller.” It was a nice tribute from Vince to a friend that showcased another rapper at the top of his game.
The show started with a brief set by Katori Walker, followed by Baltimore rapper, who was loud and crazy and had the front row going absolutely bonkers throughout his entire 45-minute set. He put on a very intense and in your face set with songs like “I Cannot F***ing Wait ‘Til Morrissey Dies."
Overall, it was a great night of hip-hop in Cleveland. Vince Staples is still young; he’ll tell anyone that he won’t be making music and touring forever, but one can only hope he does for a long time because it’ll be interesting and exciting to see what he does next.
Review by Troy Smith