I’ve never been to church, but the Magnificent Coloring World Tour was close enough for me.
When Chance the Rapper’s second mixtape “Acid Rap” dropped back in 2013, it made an impression on me. His beats were new, his content was different, and his voice was more comforting than any rapper I listened to. “Coloring Book,” which he released earlier this year, somehow surpassed the high bar set by “Acid Rap.” There isn’t a single song on the album I don’t love, from the slower rap ballads like “Juke Jam,” complete with J Biebs, to the bangers like “Mixtape” and “All Night.” I entered the EagleBank Arena last Thursday with high expectations and, as I’ve now learned to expect from Chance, they were surpassed.
My boyfriend and I arrived during the opening act and were surprised to see a white guy who looked to be about 35 singing like an electronic Sam Smith and dancing like James Brown. His moves were great, but we weren’t too into it and only started paying attention towards the end of his set when the curtain behind him rustled. Without warning or dramatic entrance, Chance the Rapper appeared, danced synchronized choreography with aforementioned Francis and the Lights, and was gone before we’d registered what happened. It was the perfect tease, and left me with exponentially increasing anticipation the entire hour or so that he was gone.
When the lights finally dimmed, the crowd collectively fell silent, waiting for our old friend Chance to return. He did so with a bang, in the form of his track “Angels,” which just happens to be my favorite song on “Coloring Book.” The room erupted in unison to the lyrics and fed off of Chance’s incredible energy. He followed up with more fan favorites like “Blessings” and “Cocoa Butter Kisses.” From there, things got weird.
A muppet-inspired human-sized puppet soon appeared on stage, introduced as Carlos the Lion. When he spoke, I immediately recognized his voice from “Coloring Book,” on which he gives advice to ‘big fella’ Chance on tracks like “Problems” and “All Night.” He served as Chance’s guide throughout the show, but he wasn’t the only one. While performing “Same Drugs,” a melodic reflection on an old flame filled with Peter Pan references, Chance was joined by his supposed ex: A pink puppet with enormous eyes and an angelic voice. A fuzzy blue creature took D.R.A.M’s place in “D.R.A.M Sings Special” while Chance took a quick nap onstage. These puppets served both comedic and emotional purpose, drawing laughs while simultaneously leading Chance to reflect on his 23 years of life.
Standout moments included song “Brain Cells,” which Chance released when he was just 16, his cover of his own verse in Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam,” and “Finish Line / Drown” in which he covered rapper and fellow Chicagoan Noname’s verse beautifully. To conclude his 90 minute show, Chance gave a soulful rendition of “Blessings (Reprise)” and asked the audience if they were ready for their blessings, because they were coming. He asked again and again, but it didn’t seem like just another part of the show. It was real, as genuine as if we were old friends having a face-to-face conversation. This was possibly the most self-reflective concert I’ve been to. The Magnificent Coloring World Tour is as much an internal experience as it is external.
Chance gave his audience a minute to think on his words before returning to the stage to give a passionate performance of “Summer Friends.” He was then joined onstage by opener Francis and the Lights to give an encore performance of their little jig. It was a wonderful end to the show, reminding us all that Chance isn’t God (which I was beginning to believe), but a 23-year-old boy from Chicago’s South Side on his first world tour. And if he can have so much faith, then so can I.
PHOTO BY STORY SULLIVAN