SHOW REVIEW: VINCE STAPLES @ THE NOVO

I watched a man of about 65 years moving and grooving to Vince Staples’ “Senorita” a few weeks ago at the Novo theatre. A fully grown man getting down to the youngest genre of music. He looked great.

I guess it makes sense. Vince Staples maintains a very mature atmosphere within his music with jaded lyrics and eerie, dark, beats. I like his music, and I’ve always been a pretty big fan, but this concert put me in a state where I felt wildly out of place even though I stood among a group of my direct clones.

The show was particularly tailored to me and my people. I mean, that tends to happen in the entertainment industry where the money moves when people are pleased, but in this instance pleasing the crowd wasn’t the main purpose of his show. Staples illuminated the concert’s demographic, pointing out the abundance of upper middle class white youth in attendance. He literally put a mirror to our faces.

Staples rapped in front of a huge screen that displayed a feed from a camera overlooking the audience, so we spent much of the show staring at ourselves. I mean it was the “Smile You’re on Camera” tour, so we had no reason to be surprised. I’m just wondering how Staples will use the footage, if he even recorded it at all.

The image was a pretty sobering sight from the back of the auditorium. The screen’s live feed showed a mass of younger, white (not all, I shouldn’t be too general) people dancing and jumping around to Staples’ lyrics depicting gang violence and some of the more unsavory parts of his upbringing. One of his songs, “Outside” directly notes situations like these with the lines “Left side, who ‘bout that life, right side who ‘bout this life” in regards to us, the audience, jumping and dancing, pretending to understand the reality of the lyrics behind the performance.

It was super meta.

The constant presence of our staring faces loomed over Staples’ performance of his various records, ranging from his earliest to his most recent album: FM. But there was more on the screen than just our faces. Clips in small frames were shown alongside the audience monitor playing some, well... interesting things. One video showed a scene of a naked woman presumably from an 80’s porn film. It was quite an eerie sight. The smile looked fake and forced, plastered to her face throughout the duration of the minute long shot panning up and down over her body. I began to feel pretty guilty but continued to unintentionally (I swear it) make eye contact with this nude woman every so often throughout the show. Her eyes followed me through the venue with a look of sex fueled judgement.

When the naked woman left the screen the amputees arrived to take her place. Lots of them. And longer scenes ensued. I watched as a one legged woman on crutches climbed into a car, furiously rubbing her stump for a whole 60 seconds. All of this while the persistent synth pattern of “War Ready” from Staples’ “Prima Donna” droned in the background.

After several more songs and amputees, Staples concluded his set without much fanfare; just a simple goodbye and a thank you and off he went behind the stage. I felt dazed and confused, realizing that the best concert I’ve ever attended was a commentary directed at me, and about me, regarding the demographics of rap music. Go watch the music video for Outside and you’ll see what I mean.

Oh, and after he left, Mac Miller’s Tiny Desk performance played on the screen for about 15 minutes. We solemnly left the venue, calmly commiserating our way out the door.

Oliver Scott, Video Director

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