It took some time to assemble Lil Wayne's intricate setup, but as the staging was being put together, people were happily singing along to Cee-Lo's "Fuck You" and waiting patiently. When the curtain dropped and Weezy F.'s DJ appeared on a platform up high, the roar from the crowd was deafening.
Weezy was coming, and everybody knew it. Rather than emerging to a super-hard hustler's song, Mr. F. Baby came out to a slick Tony! Toni! Tone! track, "Whatever You Want," featuring the line "Do you think that I would run a game on? Just as sure as my name is D'Wayne." It served as a perfect intro as he launched himself from behind the platform with a skateboard and a bright smile. He gave a little dance, said what's up to the elated audience, and prepared to go to work.
Lil Wayne performed for a solid hour and 45 minutes, appearing sober and seeming to be having an absolutely great time. Slaying the audience with cuts like "I'm Going In" and "Look at Me Now," which contained a good bit of dancing, he tempered the down moments with hilarious jokes about pretty women and groupies (finally having to quiet an overzealous fan with "I'm NOT going to fuck you"), and "A Milli" shook the ground with bass.
Throughout the night, Wayne told stories about being locked up (taking a great moment to incorporate Drake's "Miss Me" for emphasis), repeated his "three things about me," the trio of tenets that have sort of become his mantra: I believe in God, followed by, I ain't shit without you, reiterated by, I ain't shit without you.
Elsewhere, there was a dancing spree when "Got Money" showed itself on the roster. A prime moment to let loose came on "Go DJ," with DJ 45 offering several jokes about there being "no ceilings" at Comfort Dental Amphitheatre right before he slaughtered several tracks from the mixtape of the same name.
Making great use of the skateboard ramp placed on the stage, Weezy rolled around all over the place, bringing out Young Money's Shanell for "Motivation," as well as a few of her solo tracks (she also sang on "Lollipop" with such a beautiful pitch it was almost operatic, and crooned on "Mrs. Officer.") As a feature, she's on point. Her solo stuff, however, is due for a nice long walk back to the drawing board.
At one moment, Weezy got very serious and talked about a song he wrote while he was very emotional and even got a little teary-eyed: The hilarity is that the track he was referencing was "Every Girl in the World," and he sang it with comical emotion.
It was like the never-ending show: After jamming out to "How to Love," inciting a slight mosh pit on the lawn with "Prom Queen" from Rebirth, and taking us all the way back with "Fireman," we almost thought Wayne was done...and then he brought out the Birdman for "Money to Blow." Taking the long walk down the runway with Weezy, Birdman seemed to be enjoying this moment with his protégé. He closed with "Ladies and gentlemen, my father, the Birdman,"and it was a bit of a touching moment.
Smiling bright and wide, Lil Wayne thanked the crowd sincerely for party-rocking with him, picked up his skateboard and prepared to leave, looking longingly over his shoulder at the audience. After a few minutes, his voice richocheted through the building encouraging the crowd to sing him out from behind the curtains if we wanted "one more song." The audience followed his lead and sang "One more song" with the sweetness of a lullaby before Weezy sprang from backstage with a raucus encore of "6'7." Bringing out Corey Gunz, he absolutely shut it down.
After giving props to his band, he stood with all the confidence that makes him a superstar and announced, "My name is D'Wayne Michael Carter Jr., and I am the best rapper alive." He took off his shoes, passed them out to the audience, dismantled several parts of the drum set and gave those away, too, including the sticks. Donning his robe and prancing around the stage before chucking the peace sign, he finally disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Earlier in the evening, Lloyd started the night off just before 6:30 p.m. Wearing jean shorts and a T-shirt, Lloyd was dressed more like he was at sound check rather than on stage for the performance. His microphone stand, which was mounted on a set of four wheels, was the most visually interesting thing about his set.
For "Get It Shawty" and a few of his other classic hits like "You," folks were just realizing who he was, and finally, he received a very warm welcome from the Mile High Crowd. Vocally, Lloyd wasn't that strong live, especially on his newest tune, "Lay Your Head on My Pillow." There were a few moments of off-key warbling before he swam through the hook, but he made it.
The transitions for this show were quick, easy and simple. There was a DJ setup, a live drummer, space for dancers, and the artists' massive backdrop featuring whatever mural-size images they chose. When the banner for Far East Movement went up, so did the cheers in the crowd.
The trio came out with a ton of energy, wearing suspenders and ready to party. They took turns rapping at frenetic paces, only to then pick up their instruments and play for themselves. Their set was drenched with soul claps, a freaking awesome rock instrumental of Kanye West's "All of the Lights," and, of course, their hit, "Like a G6." The trio brought Lloyd out for a beautiful performance of "Rocketeer," the song the crowd seemed to know and like the most.
Once the smoke cleared and the setup crew (who worked hard and fast, like a NASCAR pit crew) drew up Keri Hilson's "No Boys Allowed" banner, the venue was filling in nicely and folks were gearing up to party. Clad in a pink jumpsuit, Hilson came out to a bank robber's skit, pointing gold guns at the audience, and folks just ate it up. She's a bit more of a superstar than a few of the earlier acts, so her set involved two costume changes and a lot of running up and down strategically placed steps. Her DJ (DJ Mars) facilitated the songs quite well, allowing Hilson to get intimate with the crowd.
Her hit with Timbaland, "The Way I Are," went over well, although the hook seemed a bit too ambitious for her live show. She rocked a snippet of Lauryn Hill's "That Thing" before complaining about the smoke to the audience and then launching into "Energy." Everyone loved Hilson, and overall, her set went over quite nicely, even though she almost took a tumble down the steps at one point. Ending with "Pretty Girl Rock" and bringing out a slew of fans to dance along with her, she got the job done, and then some.
The show was running on time, literally to the minute, so as soon as Rick Ross's banner bearing the name of his new album, God Forgives, I Don't, went up, the crowd went absolutely nuts. The lights went down, and Ross's DJ (also his hypeman) turned up the party. Unfortunately, for as many pyrotechnics as were present for Ross's big reveal, he sort of wandered onto the stage, gave a wave and started rapping. It was anti-climactic and awkward, but once he got under way with "Hustle Hard," all was forgotten.
Moving with slow, boss-like moves, Ross went through more of his new songs than old. He smashed "9 Piece" a cappella with the help of the crowd, let Drake's verse ride out on "Maybach Music," and shut the place down with "Hustlin'," one of very few older tracks he performed. Rick Ross is a prime example of what happens when an artist who claims gangster-dom has to translate those theatrics to the stage. For the most part, he swayed back and forth, raised his hands, and commanded the crowd to do what he pleases...which they did. He performed snippets of tracks he's featured on, the highlights of which, "I'm on One" and "Welcome to My Hood," had everyone screaming the hook from the front to the back. "All I Do Is Win" was also extra-dope. Thousands of hands went up at the drop of the beat.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Personal Bias: I showed up expecting Wayne to be incredible, and he had the crowd in the palm of his hands the entire time. By the Way: An enthusiastic fan jumped on stage and got tackled by security -- who were wearing khaki pants, if that matters -- while Weezy was saying his goodbyes. Random Detail: There were some VERY young children in the audience, a fact not lost on Wayne as he apologized sincerely to the parents: "There are a lot of kids in the audience tonight. To the parents, sorry for cursing."