In association with Apple Music Festival
It’s a messianic sight when Chance The Rapper elevates from a podium trapdoor in the centre of London’s Roundhouse; the crowd’s responding cheer is deafening. He goes in humble: “I’m from Chicago, Illinois,” he says, as if we don’t already know, “and I just took a flight over here from Boston a few hours ago. So this is very cool to be here. I’ve been on a tour so I’ve been doing a very specific setlist, but now that I’m in this room…”
What follows is pretty much whatever Chance feels like playing and doing – he later calls his normal setlist ‘contrived’ – but this being a house of converts, Chance’s choice is really what’s wanted. Some of the setlist is from his breakthrough second mixtape, 2013’s ‘Acid Rap’, and the majority is from his third, this year’s ‘Coloring Book’. Interspersed with those are some of Chance’s most memorable collaborations – including Kanye West’s ‘Ultralight Beam’ from January’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’, an album over which the 23-year-old bore such influence that West delayed it so Chance’s beloved song ‘Waves’ could be included.
He’s a uniquely positive performer, and it’s hard not to believe his good vibes must be at least partially responsible for his unparalleled set of connections. He was once James Blake’s roommate; he gets to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Beyoncé and call her “Auntie”, and she playfully interrupts his on-camera interviews in return; in September former President of the United States Bill Clinton attended one of his shows; on ‘Coloring Book’, featured artists include huge names like Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Future and Lil Wayne.
None of that lot is in town tonight, so we get to relish his positive influence all ourselves. This rare London show is an almost religious experience: on his podium Chance is like a pastor at a lectern. That feeling strikes heaviest during ‘Blessings’, on which Chance raps “I speak to God in public”. But he makes the crowd brim with positivity – even those in the audience who might ordinarily wilt in the face of such overt fervour. When everyone agrees to lift their extended arms up and down, as if in votive worship, the warmth in the circular room becomes weirdly powerful. “Are you ready for a miracle?” he sings as ‘Blessings’ receives its reprise.
Amidst the blessings are also straight-up bangers, and the crowd goes wild for them. ‘No Problem’, ‘All Night’ and ‘Cocoa Butter Kisses’ probably get the biggest responses of the night, but there’s a different kind of enjoyment to be had as Chance segues towards his performance’s conclusion by pouring out the personality. At this year’s MTV VMAs he showed up looking like Super Mario in a set of goofy tan dungarees and his signature ‘3’ hat, referencing mixtape number three. He’s wearing a black version of that cap tonight – probably his most popular merch item – and at this, the Apple Music Festival, he cheekily jokes that anyone who makes a purchase at the merch stall will get a free iPhone 7. He also riffs on the art of stagecraft, cheers everyone on as he teaches us a very specific shoulder-related dance move, and thanks random audience members individually for showing up. It should be us thanking him, really: an hour in his company is an absolute pleasure.