It’s a really interesting time in Tyler The Creator’s career to be seeing him perform live. In 2017 he released his fifth album, Scum Fuck Flower Boy (commonly known as Flower Boy), which has brought on a dramatic shift in his career. Not only is the new album his most universally, critically acclaimed release to date, but the growth in character and musicianship has caused a vast departure from the Tyler fans have known for years. Long gone are the days when Tyler was portraying his disturbed fictional character on the Bastard – Goblin – Wolf trilogy, as we’re now getting a raw, transparent display of his true personality. The youthful aggression is pulled back, and Tyler has put most of his focus into crafting lush, mellow sounds for his instrumentals to go with his more mature thoughts, creating a more relaxing listen.
In the past, you could expect Tyler’s concerts to have mosh pits breaking out, crowd surfing fans, and to be shouting lyrics like “kill people, burn shit, fuck school!”. After seeing his acclaimed Tiny Desk Concert featuring new songs off of Flower Boy, one had to wonder how he would balance this new laid back vibe with the old aggression, or if he would even perform much of his older work at all. The day-one fans definitely showed up to find out, as the long line to get into the venue had plenty of Odd Future/Golf Wang clothing on display.
Joining Tyler The Creator on this tour would be fellow California rapper Vince Staples, and they would be just passing the halfway point with this stop at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto. It’s quite possible that this would be the very first rap concert held at the arena, as in my years of concert-going I’ve never heard of anything other than hockey games and skating events being held at Ricoh. It’s not quite as big as the Air Canada Centre, but it’s probably the next biggest venue available in the winter months, and the biggest Tyler has headlined in Toronto to date. Fans in a general admission pit would fill the floor where the skating rink would normally go, with the seats around the arena also being filled, and co-headliner Vince Staples would take the stage after a short DJ set by Odd Future member Taco.
Vince Staples would also be celebrating a critically acclaimed 2017 album with his sophomore Big Fish Theory, and while he did get to promote it while opening for the Gorillaz last year, this tour would give him more of a co-headliner’s spotlight. His set list would be longer than last time, and he would have more intricate lighting and special effects in his performance. A clock counting down appeared on screen to build up anticipation, and Vince would come out swinging with tracks off the new album like “BagBak,” “Rain Come Down,” and “Homage,” with the EDM style of production getting the crowd bouncing right away. He would seemingly disappear and reappear as the smoke machines created a big cloud on stage, and the light panels would move in patterns to give the crowd cool visuals to look at.
Vince continued to perform songs off his newest releases, doing a few off his 2016 Prima Donna EP, as well as “Love Can Be…” off of Big Fish Theory, before taking it back to 2014 with “Blue Suede.” As with most of his songs, the fans recognized the instrumental as it built up, and went wild when the beat dropped, as Vince slayed his verses. He rocked a few more throwbacks with “Smile” and “Lift Me Up,” keeping up the party vibe before briefly leaving the stage. The countdown clock reappeared on screen, except this time it was counting up, and I think all the fans knew it would stop at the title of his next song, “7:45.”
Performing the Big Fish Theory track stationary at a mic stand, Vince kept the crowd bouncing, and would pick up the tempo with more bangers off the album like “Party People” and “Big Fish.” Vince had one more throwback with “Norf Norf” before closing out his set with the high-energy “Yeah Right.” He would pause to thank the crowd before bringing the hook back for them to all chant along to one last time, with an epic choreographed light show surrounding him on stage. There would then be a bit of a wait as the crew cleared out Vince’s stage equipment and prepped the stage for Tyler’s set.
With enough time to use the washroom and re-up on beer, an intricate stage setup was prepared for Tyler, including a starry sky backdrop, an artificial hill, and a fallen tree. An extended instrumental from “Where This Flower Blooms” played, and the curtain dropped to reveal Tyler standing atop the tree, where he would turn around and begin rapping his verse. The crowd went wild once that chorus dropped, and Tyler continued to spit, tossing his hat to reveal a weird, checkered haircut while rapping the lyrics “tell these black kids they can be who they are/ dye your hair blue, shit, I’ll do it too.“
Slowly making his way down from the tree, Tyler continued to rap with his remix of Jay-Z’s “4:44,” which may have included a slight jab at the Grammys with the line “I know I got the best album out.” Now on the floor of the stage, Tyler got into the first song off of Flower Boy, “Foreword,” getting the crowd to sing along to the chorus. This transitioned swiftly into the singalong “Boredom,” followed by “911.” The Flower Boy fans were definitely in the house, as the crowd sang along to the choruses and filled in whenever Tyler left a gap in his verses for them to shout.
Before “911” transitioned into “Mr. Lonely” like it does on the album, Tyler took some time to talk to the crowd, thanking everyone for showing up and talking about how cold our city is (he was wearing shorts in -1 degree weather). When he did get into “Mr. Lonely,” the energy cranked all the way up as the crowd sang an extended intro with him, and he came out and slayed his rapid-fire verse. Next would be a test to see how many fans only know Tyler for the new album, and how many knew his throwbacks. The crowd definitely passed, as they all sang along to the 2013 hit “IFHY.”
Tyler continued with a couple tracks off his 2015 Cherry Bomb album, performing most of his first verse off “Smuckers” before abruptly switching to the singalong “Fucking Young.” After teasing the chorus, he then took it all the way back to 2011, the crowd damn near blowing the roof off the building as he performed a couple Goblin tracks with the viral hit “Yonkers,” and the mellowed out “She.” He then did a couple more off of 2013’s Wolf, performing “48” and getting the crowd to dance to “Tamale.”
That would be the end of the throwbacks, as the rest of the show would be all Flower Boy songs until the end. Tyler performed his verse from “Garden Shed” before setting off a mosh pit with “Who Dat Boy,” getting the crowd to help him cover A$AP Rocky’s guest verses. Mellowing things out, Tyler took a seat at the bottom of the tree to calmly groove to “November.” The laid back vibes continued as Tyler performed “Glitter,” and the crowd all lit up their cell phones to make the arena look glittery without even being asked.
As with most Tyler The Creator concerts, there comes a time when he goes on a mini rant telling the crowd to put away their cell phones and enjoy the moment with him. This time it came right before the only other song on the album that could possibly cause a mosh pit, “I Ain’t Got Time!”. The sample he used to create the intro to the song played, and eventually transitioned into the song itself, causing the crowd to go wild. Tyler then cut the beat off and performed the last verse of the song accapella, with the crowd rapping along with him.
To close out the show, Tyler performed the song “See You Again,” getting the crowd to help out singing Kali Uchis’ chorus. The romantic song proved to be a fitting goodbye, as Tyler took some time to sign a fan’s vinyl record before leaving. It felt like there was potential for an encore performance, but the crowd all started to clear out, and not enough people stayed back to chant for one.
Overall, this was a much more energetic show than I expected. Seeing the way Tyler performed these songs off of Flower Boy reminded me of seeing A Tribe Called Quest perform live, with the way their studio recordings sound so laid back, but their live performance brought a ton of extra energy out of the songs. The mellow instrumentals put more of an emphasis on Tyler’s vocals, and Tyler really stands out when he attacks the mic. While some mosh pits still broke out, Tyler did pull it back and kept the raging to a minimum, strategically picking out throwbacks that would fit the vibe and avoiding aggressive songs like “Deathcamp,” “Domo23” and “Tron Cat.”
The stage design is another cool aspect of this tour. Vince Staples’ lighting setup went perfectly with the EDM style of production in his music, while Tyler’s stage props effectively brought to life the Flower Boy album artwork. It’s a setup I doubt Tyler’s team could pull off at a venue smaller than Ricoh Coliseum, or at the outdoor venues Tyler’s rocked before like Echo Beach or Downsview Park. Between the new album and this tour, Tyler is showing that he has what it takes to be a mega star, and it’s very possible we see him upgrading to larger venues and actually winning Grammy awards in the future.
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