Chance the Rapper relives ‘Acid Rap’ era with emotional United Center blowout

Saba, DLow, Twista and Vic Mensa were among the collaborators joining the Chicago favorite in celebrating the breakthrough mixtape’s 10th anniversary.

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Chance the Rapper performs at United Center, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023.

Chance the Rapper performs during the 10th anniversary “Acid Rap” concert on Saturday night at the United Center.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Many of the fans arriving to the United Center on Saturday night for Chance the Rapper’s first performance at the venue since 2019 came wearing Chance gear, both official and bootleg, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his breakthrough project, “Acid Rap.” His face was everywhere.

About 10 minutes before opener Saba hit the stage, a larger-than-life, Antron fleece Chance mascot walked out into Section 122 in khaki overalls and a khaki-colored signature “3” cap, guided by a volunteer from Chance the Rapper’s nonprofit, SocialWorks.

Saba’s opening set bristled with his characteristic energy. He glided across the stage for what at times felt like a joyous pep rally.

Saba performs an opening set ahead of Chance the Rapper at the United Center.

Saba performs an opening set ahead of Chance the Rapper at the United Center.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

“It’s an occasion,” the West Side native exclaimed, “They let the West Side into the United Center!”

Backed by DJ Dam Dam, his set pulled liberally from his critically acclaimed “Bucket List Project” and “Care For Me” as well as one unreleased song (an ode to “Summertime Chi”), produced by Chicago native No I.D. In his final song, the longtime Chance collaborator and friend brought up the rest of his fellow Pivot Gang for a rendition of their single “Aang.”

Saba performs at United Center on Saturday night.

Saba performs at United Center ahead of Chance the Rapper.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

DJ Oreo came out next, supplying a showcase of the rich Black culture of Chicago. After introducing short cameos by rappers Mello Buckzz and King Louie, Oreo paid tribute to the late DJ Casper, adding that without Casper, there would not have been the DLow Shuffle. He introduced dancer and rapper DLow to the stage, who immediately began to “bop’” the footwork-rooted dance craze that he helped make famous.

Chance the Rapper performs at the United Center.

Chance the Rapper reaches for the rafters at the United Center during his concert Saturday night.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

As Chance’s set began, he was backed by a tight, contemporary gospel-informed band including Nico Segal on trumpet, Peter CottonTale on keys and Stix on drums (all collaborators who worked with Chance on “Acid Rap,” and on many projects since). Rounding out the ensemble were a handful of background vocalists and an electric bassist.

Chance pounced onto the stage in a custom Acid Rap Blackhawks Jersey (No. 10, naturally), and tore into a high-energy performance of “No Problems” amid an explosion of ticker tape and pyrotechnics.

After performing fan favorites including “All Night” and “Blessings,” he took a moment to share that “this the first time my daughters are seeing me perform on this scale in Chicago.”

It was clear that this was much more than a concert to Chance; it was more like a class reunion.

After noting how the “Acid Rap” project was a pivotal moment in the lives of both himself and his community of collaborators, he divulged that he doesn’t perform many of the songs from the mixtape anymore because “that part of my life is over.” He continued, “A lot of you guys found me through ‘Acid Rap.’ And so, it’ll always be a part of me, but I’ve learned a lot in life in that time.”

Confetti rains down on fans at the “Acid Rap” 10th anniversary concert on Saturday night at the United Center.

Confetti rains down on fans at the “Acid Rap” 10th anniversary concert on Saturday night at the United Center.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Saba returned to the stage for an inspired medley of “Everybody’s Something” from the project, blended with “Angels” (from “Coloring Book”), both of which he was featured on.

Longtime collaborator and friend Noname (who on Aug. 11 released “Sundial,” her first album in five years) popped onto the stage for “Lost,” a song on “Acid Rap” that introduced many fans to the soon-to-be star. Chance then introduced “Smoke Again,” and the audience took his suggestion literally: At least a few joints circulated around the stadium.

“Cocoa Butter Kisses” brought out original featured artists Twista and Vic Mensa, bringing down the house. And after a rousing version of “Chain Smoker,” a blast of paper confetti shot out toward the sold-out crowd, giving the stadium the look of a gargantuan snow globe.

A reel of childhood home movies appeared on a big screen behind Chance as he hinted at one more song. Suddenly, his family appeared, large sunflower-studded bouquets in tow, and his father, Ken Bennett, spoke to his son’s impact beyond Chicago.

“You are a great example, son, of how to do positive things, and be courageous and careful for others. We couldn’t be more proud of you,” Bennett said. Applause swelled from the crowd.

Chance, clearly overcome with emotion, responded: “I really can’t rap anymore, I just love y’all and appreciate y’all.”

His voice broke. “Thank you so much. Good night, y’all.”

Peter CottonTale began to play the characteristic gospel chords of a church benediction as everyone left the stage.

There were no encores. And so concluded just another 10-year class reunion.

Chance the Rapper set list

Set List

  • No Problems
  • All Night
  • Blessings
  • Good Ass Intro
  • Pushaman/Paranoia
  • Everybody’s Something/Angels medley (featuring Saba)
  • Medley of Sunday Candy/D.R.A.M. Sings Special/Melodies From Heaven (Kirk Franklin cover) medley
  • NaNa
  • Lost (featuring Noname)
  • Juice
  • I’m The One (DJ Khaled cover)
  • Medley of Highs and the Lows/ Doo Wop (That Thing) (Lauryn Hill cover) / My Boo (Alicia Keys and Usher cover) / To Zion (Lauryn Hill cover)
  • Wonderful Everyday: Arthur
  • Ultralight Beam
  • Favorite Song
  • Smoke Again
  • Acid Rain
  • Cocoa Butter Kisses (featuring Twista and Vic Mensa)
  • Same Drugs
  • Chain Smoker
  • Interlude (That’s Love)

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