By Jewel Wicker
If you would've blindly purchased a ticket to the Saturday night concert occurring at the Fox Theatre tonight, you probably would've been confused.
The ticket stub listed the main act as Chance the Rapper, but there was a lot of singing about blessings and praising, and God.
For 90-minutes 23-year-old Chicago native Chance the Rapper took concert attendees on a journey through his three mixtapes and life. The journey ended with him discovering his calling to spread words of encouragement and inspiration to fans.
Chance has carved a unique space for himself in hip-hop, delivering some of the most spiritual and uplifting offerings in the genre this year with the release of his mix tape "Coloring Book." Not only is Chance determined to "speak to God in public" as he says in "Blessings (Reprise)," but he's determined to do so in a way that challenges music industry traditions. "Coloring Book" was released for free and without the support of a record label.
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Wearing his signature "3" hat, a white t-shirt, black pants and a denim jacket, Chance opened with the energetic "Angels" before launching into mix tape standout "Blessings" with the help of horn player Donny Trumpet. It wouldn't be the last time fans heard the "Are you ready for your blessings" refrain borrowed from gospel singer Fred Hammond's "Let the Praise Begin" during the show.
For much of the concert, it was hard to hear Chance over the screaming sold-out crowd. Referring to Atlanta as his "second home" on Twitter before the show and "his favorite place in the U.S. to play a show," during the concert, Chance launched into a section dedicated to older songs early in the set. "Acid Rap" tracks "Pusha Man" and "Smoke Again" and "10 Day" song "Brain Cells" elicited the same level of screams and excitement from the crowd as the newer songs.
A muppet-esque creature named Carlos appeared on the stage often, helping Chance transition and delivering lectures about how the rapper should move away from his old songs and focus on his newer, more inspirational offerings.
And, Chance did just that. But not before delivering the standout song of the night. Sitting next to a female character at a piano, Chance performed "Same Drugs." The "Coloring Book" song finds the rapper reminiscing on an old relationship, comparing the former flame to a drug and using Peter Pan references. In a surprising twist, one of the most solemn songs on the otherwise uplifting mix tape ended with confetti falling from the sky. It was a moment that even managed to upstage the memorable singalong to Chance's show-stealing verse on Kanye West's "Ultralight Beam."
Chance performed "Coloring Book" in his entirety, with only his three band members and the creatures joining him on stage. Atlanta artists 2 Chainz and Raury are both featured on the project ("No Problems" and "Blessings (Reprise)", respectively), but neither graced the stage.
The concert certainly had it's hype moments, but by the end the real purpose and message was clear. Backed by a choir of the muppet-like characters, Chance ended the show with a stretch of gospel-leaning songs, including "How Great" ("How great is our God.") and "Finish Line/Drown" ("All that was left was His love").
"I was sent here to drop off a message," Chance said to the crowd halfway through "Blessings (Reprise)." He then warned the crowd that their blessings couldn't be found on his mix tapes or at his shows. "Did you know that your blessing is not made of flesh, but it's coming?"
The rapper joked that he'd "officially made [the concert] a preachy [expletive] show" before leaving the stage.
He returned with opening act Francis and the Lights to perform "Summer Friends" and Francis' "Friends" as an encore. Fans who arrived on time likely recognized the choreography during "Friends." Chance joined Francis on stage earlier in his show, helping the singer to close out his set with the same song.