Published Sep 07, 2019Only a few years back, it wouldn't have been out of step to believe that Tyler, the Creator had peaked — creatively, commercially, all of it. That the punky, disruptive Odd Future movement he'd propelled forward with his cheeky charisma and brilliant Technicolor irreverence had run its course, giving way to the turnt-up trap entrancing these kids.
In terms of live shows, it felt like a co-headlining tour with A$AP Rocky — like the one the fashion-freaking oddballs from opposite coasts threw in the summer of 2015 — was about as large as Tyler's status and his venue size would grow. (That tour stormed through Echo Beach.)
But as the Golf Wang inventor's work ethic and imagination leveled up over the back nine of his 20s, so too did his maturity and sensitivity. Already way left, he veered further, delivering his most polished and nuanced LP, Flower Boy, in 2017. His fan base, growing up right with him, filled Ricoh Coliseum.
Few artists in any genre — especially the wide-cast net that is today's hip-hop — see an uptick in critical and commercial acclaim at album number six, but on Friday night, here was goofball, lovesick Tyler standing before a jammed, adoring Scotiabank Arena on his Igor Tour, soaking it all up.
"It's crazy this happened by just staying weird and shit," he said. "I ain't even think this many people would come out. Can we dance?"
Dipped fresh in a royal-blue suit with gleaming white dress shoes, white socks and a platinum bowl-cut wig, Tyler danced and rapped and sang and flashed that grin that sometimes looks too big for his face, to the point that his back sweat soaked his navy suit jacket. Did we mentioned he wasn't wearing a shirt?
He began his definitively solo show — no hypeman, no band, no DJ, no nothing — by standing still in front of sparkling silver curtains to the strains of "Igor's Theme," the lead track from 2019's self-produced breakup album. Soon, the mayhem began: the wild, Gumby-esque dancing, the working of the crowd, the jokes, the spazzy screams, the gruff raps, the showmanship.
The man is a tour de force, confident in his silliness and genuine in his heartbreak. When he performs "Puppet" he hangs his limbs like a marionette. When he throws it back to "Yonkers," he leans into the moshing crowd at stage-front and reminds that for all his R&B excursions, he can still spit.
During a brief breather from his 90-minute one-man show, he admits: "It's tiring in this damn suit and this damn wig fuckin' dancing all the time." This breaking of the fourth wall only endears him more.
A white piano appears stage right, and Tyler sits down to twinkle out the lovey-dovey "Earfquake," which rises to a crescendo. The music cuts, and the arena spontaneously fills the void with handclaps. It's a moment, soft and… nice. Nothing like you could've predicted from that upstart L.A. shock rapper who ate cockroaches and was an early adopter of the troll rap.
Hey, he warned us eight years ago: "I'm a fucking walking paradox."
Of these screwy, off-kilter, pretty love ditties, Tyler reveals to the crowd, "I have so many songs like that on my goddamn computer."
And it's that not knowing what he'll do next, be it onstage or on record, that has made the artist worth keeping an eye on. So it's understandable that 21-year-old opener Jaden Smith would spend a significant portion of his own 50-minute set bigging up the headliner.
Despite the cold video shots of L.A. cars and buildings and the fake smoke and the washes of pink lighting, Smith knows he has a long way to go to reach Tyler's level of self-assuredness and, to be blunt, talent.
So the youngster, instead, relies on bass that'll cave in your chest and dedicates arguably his best song, "Icon," to Tyler, comfortable in his role as the warm-up act.
Smith's fans need encouragement to shine their cellphone lights, whereas when Tyler closes with the uber-emo "Are We Still Friends?" the arena burns bright with a shine he never asked for.