The Houston rapper's zany backdrops and intoxicating pyro steal the show - even from himself
It doesn’t take long before Travis flexes his headline muscles by kicking out press photographers from the photo pit early. “Get them cameras out of here,” he barks at security, which results in NME’s own snapper being rushed out and unable to collect his bag (it was later returned).
Dosed in energy and set on fire repeatedly, Travis Scott’s live shows often feel like an electronic awakening. They’re a spiritual gathering of misunderstood misfits who crave an excuse to get lit — just ask the guy waving his crutches in the air from the side banks of the Beekse Bergen site. And the ‘Rodeo’ rapper loves it — he takes pride in being the conductor.
Like a futuristic fairground caught somewhere in-between the Las Vegas strip and a scene from Tron, Scott’s ‘ASTROWORLD’ setup on the snipes main stage is busy yet awe-inspiring.
One minute you’re focused on how high his DJ is situated — 20 feet in the air, he’s easier to see than Scott most of the time due mostly to the thousands of camera phones blocking a clear path of sight — and the next your attention is turned by fireballs and neon glitches on the big screen that resemble Neo entering the Matrix.
Claustrophobia runs rife throughout the 60 minute set as the 30,000 strong crowd sandwich together as if they’re playing Tetris – one minute you’re an L brick, the next you’re a T, and you’re really stuck when you find yourself as an I with your arms wedged by your sides. And when a rare bit of space does open up, it gets engulfed by a mass mosh pit.
There is an effortless fluidity to Scott’s performance. The problem comes though when he gets a little over zealous on his quest for autotune dominance. As his DJ brings down the track, Scott goes on a wailing rampage that turns many off — people in the crowd are visibly walking away or taking the time to check their phones and post their latest Insta Story.
Elsewhere, the unmistakable opening drums of ‘Mamacita’ gives fans who aren’t as passionate about his autotune ramblings a shot in the arm. But as quick as it arrives, it exits and once again the robotic screeches return.
The reliance Scott has on autotune can get old really quickly — especially in a live setting. There’s nothing wrong with dipping a toe into what Roger Troutman’s talkbox birthed, but even T-Pain takes a break, occasionally.
As a collaborator, Travis Scott has one of the most impressive resumes in rap. Zipping through a handful of them in what turns out to be one of the main highlights of his set, he begins with his verse from Kodak Black’s ‘ZEZE’ – much to the crowd’s uncontrollable excitement. Switching gears to something a little more soul-stirring, the SZA-assisted ‘Love Galore’ catches the Tilburg crowd in a vibe, as does his own ‘ASTROWORLD’ cut, ‘Wake Up’, featuring The Weeknd.
Feeling more like a bootcamp than a rap concert at times, Scott’s constant orders to “put one hand up,” or “two hands up,” or “one middle finger up,” or “two middle fingers up,” or to “take your cell phone out and light up the sky,” get a little tedious as the night draws on. But once ‘Goosebumps’ gets going, there’s no denying that the thousands of camera phone lights add to the moment.
WOO HAH! organisers knew what they were doing when they booked Travis Scott to close out this year’s festival. Even if only for one song, there was never going to be an atmosphere at any point throughout the weekend that even came close to what happens when ‘Sicko Mode’ blares out across the festival park.
“Whatever happens in your life, always go sicko mode,” Scott instructs, before pandemonium ensues. Fans lose it. Beer is thrown in the air — followed by shirts, sunglasses, and even a phone, which was likely knocked out of its owner’s hand during the excitement.
The sonically mesmerising Drake-assisted banger takes a match to an already gassed up crowd and closes the festival out as energetically as it began.