Saturday, October 1, 2022

Concert Review: Kid Cudi & Friends at FTX Arena

Hip-hop fans from throughout South Florida came together on Labor Day eve to witness the Miami stop of 2010s hip-hop icon Kid Cudi’s “To the Moon” 2022 world tour, a show that couldn’t manage to live up to its headliner’s reputation because it, frankly, didn’t try very hard to.

From the perspective of an outside observer, it has not been a particularly pleasant few months for Scott Mescudi, better known by his stage name Kid Cudi. 2022 has served as the scene of a very public falling-out with his mentor, Kids See Ghosts co-lead, and the artist who propelled him to stardom, Kanye West. In addition, Cudi also had the misfortune of replacing West at Miami’s exceedingly massive Rolling Loud festival this past June, only to leave the stage after a few songs in response to being pelted with items by an ungrateful crowd. Amidst those overt troubles, Kid Cudi has also set out on a major headlining tour—a well-deserved victory lap for a well-liked artist who seemed in need of a well-earned win.

Flanked by three support acts, the show opened with sets from up-and-coming rapper Strick and ascendant young rapper/singer 070 Shake, both of which were performed with little-to-no support from a laughably low-key stage production setup and failed to make much of an impact beyond the first few rows of floor seats. What followed was a hotly anticipated set from hometown hero Denzel Curry, whose brief time on stage boasted electric moments—”RICKY” and “Ultimate,” to name a few—but was ultimately short-lived after he arrived late, then left early following a meager seven songs.

After Curry’s mini-set wrapped up, a backstage curtain dropped to reveal—thankfully—a production design befitting an arena-headlining act, with a large stylized screen, faux topography and flowers, and a large practical doorway for our main act to enter through, which he did to rapturous praise.

All photos by James Biagiotti

Kid Cudi has a unique status within the larger pop music landscape as an artist who means a whole heck of a lot to a whole heck of a lot of people. I spotted multiple shirts in the crowd on Sunday night that read “Cudi Saved My Life.” One particularly persistent girl, hoisted onto a companion’s shoulders, held up a sign that read “if you sign my back, I’ll get it tattooed.” The love for this man is real and inescapable, and I understand it—he has endeared himself to millions of fans through years of positive vibes and transparency regarding his mental health struggles. But this love for his personality, which I can wholeheartedly relate to, simply compounds my own confusion when it comes to his music — despite my best efforts, I simply can’t get past the question: “Why?”

What followed Cudi’s triumphant entrance was a show that I found to be both thoroughly unremarkable and plagued by pervasive sound issues throughout. Yes, the crowd’s response throughout the evening was cacophonous and inescapable, but it only exacerbated the frustrating lack of vocals in the mix and overall muddled sound quality of the show. Let’s put things in perspective for a moment: I go to a lot of concerts, and I almost always wear earplugs to protect my already-damaged hearing. I took my earplugs out on Sunday night because the PA was so quiet.

Through that muted sound, the show did have its moments. Tracks like “Mr. Rager,” show closer “Love,” and even new songs “Tequila Shots” and “Dive” all managed to transcend the mix and provide blissful snapshots of the psychedelic hip-hop that Cudi is so beloved for. But when it came to song selection, one of Cudi’s two biggest—by far—solo hits, “Day N’ Night,” was left completely out of the show, while the main set-closing rendition of “Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare)” turned out to be a bastardized remix courtesy of cake-chucking DJ Steve Aoki.

Perhaps even more troubling than the sound issues was the fact that the show’s pacing was off throughout the night. Yes, it was charming when he stopped to sign fans’ records early on—for the first minute or so. And though it was unclear to me whether Cudi’s mid-show smoke break was scripted or truly off-the-cuff (“Hold on,” he said at one point, “for this next song, I have to smoke weed. I’m going into my clubhouse.”), these moments that were initially endearing dragged on for far too long. From backstage, as the seconds ticked away, he said into the mic “hold on, I’m coming, I gotta get right…. Someone please bring me a blunt to the back of the stage.” It’s all fun and games until there are roughly 120 seconds of dead air in the middle of a set that was already starved for some momentum.

When I was a kid, my mother taught me the age-old adage that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I’ve exhausted my reserves of nice things to say about this concert. I wish nothing but the best to Mescudi and his fans in their collective pursuit of happiness, but in the end, despite Cudi’s best efforts and smoke breaks, the show simply felt half-baked. 

Kid Cudi set list

James Biagiotti
James Biagiotti is a native of Boca Raton, a marketing professional in South Florida, and the former Web Editor of Boca Raton magazine. He is an avid music fan who spends far too much time listening to, dissecting, and traveling to see his favorite bands. He is also, unfortunately, a devoted Miami Dolphins fan.

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