MAC MILLER @ OGDEN THEATRE | 7/30/13 Mac Miller is one of rap music's fastest-rising stars, whether hip-hop likes it or not. As an independent rapper who has twice shown that fresh beats and dope rhymes can sell well, he should be celebrated. Instead the rapper is a polarizing figure. Last night's sold-out show at the Ogden Theatre showed that Denver has plenty of people who love his particular brand of rap.
But even if Miller wasn't your thing, this bill also featured a slate of newcomers, such as Vince Staples, the Internet and Chance the Rapper, as well as new stalwart Action Bronson, that attracted an early crowd. Ultimately, though, it felt like this show was a chance for Miller to flex some serious credibility and win some new fans over. In his quest to do so, last night, however, he seriously overreached and gave us a bloated performance that should have been trimmed for content.
Things got under way an hour late, thanks to a power outage. Once the juice was returned, though, things quickly got started with former Odd Future member/Mac Miller protege Vince Staples. Staples is clearly thrilled to have Broke, his new project, out and generating a buzz. He shouted out Larry Fisherman, gave several "I fuck with Denver"s up, and gave a quality if not compelling presentation. For a newcomer, he held it down.
The Internet came on quickly after Staples and seemed overwhelmed and unprepared to play this crowd. Syd tha Kyd is usually a mesmerizing presence in front of the band, but this night, she was drowning. A polite and bored audience waited patiently through sound troubles on stage and a mix in the room that sounded like laptop speakers. Beyond technical difficulties, the set kind of just laid there waiting for it all to be over. Perhaps the Internet should have opened? Regardless, this was not the best night for the group.
Chance the Rapper bounded on stage so quickly he almost slid right off the other side. The crowd gave him one of the warmest receptions of the night. Hard not to like a guy who just exudes positivity. His Kid Cudi influences were mos' def on display, but the game can use as many introspective rappers that dwell on heavy issues and like to sing as possible.
Of course Chance did the exhilarating juke of "Good Ass Intro" (and even treated the crowd to a lil' footwork). The highlight, however, was his Slum Village flip "Everybody's Something," which is just a beautiful song. "Favorite Song" and "Juice" did not make the setlist and were sorely missed. Chance feels like rap's next big star in the making.
Action Bronson was up next, and he doesn't have the most captivating stage presence. As a result, during his set, there was lots of zoning out from the crowd. Bronson was sometimes thrilling on the mic (mostly a cappella), but more often than not, he sounded like a future also-ran.
Bronson's on that Queens shit real tough, and on stage, that style of rap can get real boring, real fast. The set left miles between happy fans and people taking selfies and group shots on their phones. When the highlight of your set is the out-of-shape Vin Diesel look-alike homie yelling random gangsta affirmations...it's time to dream up a new stage show.
Keep reading for a review of Mac Miller's set
Speaking of dreaming up stage shows, Mac Miller had stage props and lights, and the sound miraculously fixed itself as his performance began. Unlike the openers, Miller looked like he was comfortable being on stage. His greatest strength as a performer was also his weakness, though: He was so prepared and ready to entertain that he often overreached, doing way too much. That may seem a pithy description of a great show, but it was a show that nonetheless felt like it lasted thirty minutes too long.
Miller, a multi-instrumentalist, felt obliged to touch the drums, guitar and keys. Every time he grabbed a new instrument, it felt forced, like a dog-and-pony show. He obviously has legions of devoted fans, and the comfort that affords performers led to some on-stage meandering that could easily be cut to create a riveting show -- particularly at the end of the set, where a few heady songs get lumped together for an anti-climactic finish.
Individually, "Watching Movies," "I Am Who Am (Killin' Time)," "The Question," and "Objects in the Mirror" are great tracks, but back to back, with the arrangement provided by Mac and his live band, it felt like a giant sleeping pill. It's almost like Mac realizes this, since he came back swinging real hard after that.
After another head-scratching interlude with Miller on keys -- at one point he launched into the opening chords of D'Angelo's "Untitled" that literally left the crowd scratching their heads. ("Nobody knows this song? Seriously?" he asked the stone-faced room. "You all should buy some D'Angelo records and listen to them.") But while his turns on the keyboards, drums and guitar felt like a bit much, the interplay between Miller and DJ Clockwork was just the right amount of dope.
The sounds of "Frick Park Market" kicked off the encore, and the last song, "Donald Trump," sounded fresh as the day it was made. This tour probably won't win over any new Mac Miller fans, but that certainly won't be from lack of trying on his part.
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