Concert Review: Vince Staples at Revolution Live

A brief overview of Vince Staples’ public persona: He projects almost total apathy, deploys his biting wit and bold opinions at will, and would most likely despise and/or mock this review if he ever saw it.

Despite his general standoffishness, a deep and uncompromising passion for his craft has made him one of the most respected hip-hop artists currently active. Almost a year to the day since his last stop in South Florida, in which he opened up for Tyler, the Creator at the James L. Knight Center, Staples took over Revolution Live and unleashed an early frontrunner for South Florida’s best rap show of 2019.

A serious argument could be made for the idea that rap music is the new punk rock. Assuming that’s the case, then I believe that would make Vince Staples’ innovative brand of rap the new post-punk. His singular beats pull from styles that aren’t often exploited by other rappers, he forgoes genre mainstays such as DJs and hypemen on stage, and he eschews the vices associated with many hip-hop artists, choosing to live “straight-edge.”

Following an underwhelming set from the evening’s first opener PNTHN (pronounced “pantheon”), a rap collective that struck me as a blatant attempt to replicate the formula that lead to the success of Brockhampton, Compton rapper Buddy took the stage. Buddy was a surprise hit with the crowd, and put together an engaging set while showing off a blend of rap and R&B tracks from his debut record Harlan & Alondra.

After a brief intermission, Staples took the stage just after 10, and launched into “Feels Like Summer,” the opening track from his most recent project, last year’s FM!.

The clever tour concept—“Smile, You’re on Camera”—featured a massive video screen at the back of the stage that showed live footage of the performance and the crowd in real time. Fans got the chance to mug for the cameras and show off their mastery of Staples’ lyrics, and the gimmick managed to make a crowd of under 1,000 fans feel like it was sold out. Occasionally, some of the faux monitors on the screen would play scenes from old black-and-white movies, adding to the inherent cool-factor of the display. As if that wasn’t enough, an impressive light show was packed onto the sides and front of the stage, with strobes and LEDs flashing in sync with each and every beat. The massive scope of the production, coupled with a relatively small venue, made the performance feel like a stadium show that had somehow been compacted to fit inside Revolution Live.

The show, held on a holiday that fell on a weeknight, drew an interesting group of fans to the venue. A sample of those in attendance included couples celebrating Valentine’s’ Day, superfans who knew every word to every song, and a doting dad who occasionally ventured into the pit to check on his kids and deliver bottles of water. The crowd in the pit boasted a tireless energy throughout the set, and mosh pits opened up for songs like “Lift Me Up,” “Blue Suede” and bombastic closer “Yeah Right.”

The medium-sized crowd at Revolution didn’t dispel the notion that Vince is one of those “if you know, you know” artists. Compared to superstars like Kendrick Lamar, Staples is one of his genre’s best-kept secrets, which has seemed to foster an even more passionate response from his fans. His refusal to compromise artistically or pander to a more mainstream hip-hop audience has preserved his reputation and his body of work as one of the strongest in the game, and Thursday night’s show only reinforced that sentiment.

Finally, following Staple’s monumental set came its unexpectedly affecting epilogue. One thing I certainly didn’t expect from this show was to feel moved, but when Staples chose to play Mac Miller’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert on the big screen in its entirety following the conclusion of the show, that’s exactly what happened. Much of the crowd hung around to enjoy the moment together, watching Miller and his band perform three tracks from last year’s Swimming and applauding as if he were on the stage performing for them. It served as a touching tribute from Staples to his late friend and the artist who gave him his big break back in 2013, and proved that despite the apathy he flaunts, Vince Staples really does care.

SET LIST:

  • Feels Like Summer
  • Don’t Get Chipped
  • Lift Me Up
  • Street Punks
  • Relay
  • War Ready
  • 745
  • Rain Come Down
  • Tweakin’
  • Big Fish
  • Outside!
  • Run the Bands
  • Get the Fuck Off My Dick
  • Señorita
  • No Bleedin
  • FUN!
  • BagBak
  • Party People
  • Blue Suede
  • Norf Norf
  • Yeah Right