When hometown superstar Chance the Rapper headlined Lollapalooza on Saturday night, he served up a pyro-punctuated, gospel- and soul-seasoned love feast made especially for Chicago.
And Chicago devoured every morsel; even the soft yellow almost-full moon appeared to beam approvingly down from its perch directly overhead. You saw devotion in the faces of the sellout crowd: ecstatic Chance fanciers captured by mobile videocam were splashed across the giant screens at the Grant Park Stage, happily echoing every signature “Ooh-WOO!” uttered by Chancellor Bennett – when he wasn’t singing, dancing, performing lyrical acrobatics or otherwise commanding the multilevel, color- and light-drenched set.
His Lolla fans weren’t straight-up worshipful, though, so much as immersing themselves in the down-to-earth embrace of a valued friend and peer, someone who knows and loves their city – and, by extension, every one of them. It wasn’t hard to see why the 24-year old inspires such enthusiasm at this relatively early point in his career.
“He’s really humble, and he’s all about his people,” observed Erin Delahanty, 23, of Lakeview. “Plus, he’s my age – and he’s crushing it.”
Chance’s infectious and thought-provoking songs are equaled by his exuberant mike-wielding and effortless charisma. At Lollapalooza, the artist’s lithe frame was clad in belted jeans and white Champion-logoed athletic shirt, crowned by the MC’s ever-present baseball cap. It’s emblazoned with a white numeral 3, a reference to his third (and most recent) music project, last year’s acclaimed mixtape, “Coloring Book.”
That project’s self-referential track, “Mixtape,” which suggests a PG-13 playground chant, led off Chance’s set. Backed by a vocal quartet and his top-flight backing musicians, the instrumental combo The Social Experiment, Chance performed much of “Coloring Book” and more, including a few covers and some crowd-pleasing selections from earlier releases (“Acid Rap’s” wry “Cocoa Butter Kisses” was a particular favorite).
This was the Rapper’s third Lolla appearance, he noted, and it featured surprise guest appearances, that longtime staple of major music festivals. But not all of the cameo performers in Chance’s show were musicians: midway through, several actual Chicago firefighters unleashed an actual fire hose from the stage, baptizing audience members at the conclusion of “Chain Smoker.”
Towards show’s end, California pop-R&B-electronic artist Francis Farewell Starlite, aka Francis and the Lights, materialized to co-perform his courtly-quirky Chance the Rapper collaboration, “May I Have This Dance,” along with Chance’s “Summer Friends.” And increasingly prominent Chicago MC Vic Mensa dueted with his colleague on a piquant track about success, “Didn’t I (Say I Didn’t),” from Mensa’s stunning debut studio album, “The Autobiography.”
Then, with his eyes on the tableau of glittery geometric lines indicating Chicago’s downtown, Chance remarked appreciatively, “The skyline looks crazy,” before launching into the soulful sensibility of “All We Got”: “Music is all we got … So we might as well give it all we got.”
For three out-of-state, twentysomething Lolla-goers, who’d waited most of the day at Grant Park Stage to see Chance, the essence of his appeal – apart, of course, from his music – was the bountiful nature of the man himself. “He’s a philanthropist,” chorused Braunwyn (a Houston resident), Meaghan (from Minnesota) and Jay (who lives in Dayton, Ohio, and has been a Chance enthusiast “since his 2012 debut mixtape, “10 Day”) – all of them citing Chance’s much-publicized $1 million donation to Chicago Public Schools.
“Chance the Rapper is not a walking billboard,” stated Braunwyn, “He’s the same person he was from the beginning; he hasn’t changed [in the wake of success]. In Texas you walk the walk, and Chance does that here for his city.”
Seated nearby, David Zenere and his wife Colleen – Baby Boomers who reside near Grant Park – said they’ve taken to Chance as resoundingly as have the trio of millennials. “If he keeps at what he’s doing, he’ll be as popular as Michael Jordan,” David Zenere predicted. “And if Chance the Rapper runs for mayor, he’s gonna win.”
Moira McCormick is a local freelance writer.
Waves / Father Stretch My Hands / Ultralight Beam (Kanye West cover)
Sunday Candy (Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment cover)
D.R.A.M. Sings Special
I Love You So Much (DJ Khaled cover)
I’m the One (DJ Khaled cover)
Interlude (That’s Love)
Cocoa Butter Kisses (with Vic Mensa)
Didn’t I (Say I Didn’t) (Vic Mensa cover, with Vic Mensa)
All We Got
May I Have This Dance (Remix) (Francis and the Lights cover, with Francis and the Lights)
Summer Friends (with Francis and the Lights)