Chance the Rapper in Manila: 'Y'all just killed that show'
MANILA, Philippines – “I wanna shake this place up. I wanna turn it up,” Chance the Rapper exclaimed, almost like a preacher on stage, just as his Manila set had made it through the halfway mark. He was barely done, yet he was a man on a mission, setting the place ablaze with his infectious energy and uplifting spirits as high as he could.
Held at the Mall of Asia Arena last Thursday, August 23, it was Chancelor Bennett’s first headlining appearance in Asia this year, as it was also his first time in the country.
And boy – though this has been (and will be) said a dozen times – did he take us to church.
On the stage was a guy that GQ’s Mark Anthony Green succinctly hailed in a profile as “more spirit-lifting than Jay Z, more congenial than Drake, and more ‘of the people’ than Kanye.” True enough, this is what we witnessed.
A primeval whistle-like shout echoed throughout the venue as the crowd repeated after him, “Ooh whoa!” Church service had started.
The prolific 25 year-old rap star from Chicago known as Chano had a catalog of fan favorites and even fresh, weeks-old material to play on his Manila stage. He was backed by his band, The Social Experiment, which included producers Donnie Trumpet and Peter CottonTale.
He kicked his 18-song set off with “Mixtape,” before jumping into the Coloring Book favorite, “Blessings.” While he sang, “When the praises go up, the blessings come down,” the wall of Jericho toppled as everyone sang right along with him, the ground shaking from our stomping feet.
After “Angels,” the proud Chicagoan proceeded to his new singles, “65th & Ingleside,” “Work Out,” and his newly released collab, “What’s the Hook,” where he brought out Reeseynem himself.
“The show hasn’t even started yet,” said Chance more than once, midway through his set, as he paused in between his songs for banter. Although it has been a concert staple for an artist to interact with fans, when he did, it never felt rote or contrived.
“I’m sorry it took me so long to finally get to the Philippines. It’s been a long-ass time. Sorry I’m late,” he said like a friend – a very apologetic one at that for arriving late to the party. He even admitted that the visit was five years in the making.
Chano rolled out covers next, starting with DJ Khaled’s “I’m the One,” where he features alongside the Migos’ Quavo, Lil Wayne, and Justin Bieber. The Kanye West protégé also performed his verse onThe Life of Pablo track “Ultralight Beam.”
He surveyed the crowd, asking how they came to knew his music, “Just so I can know. Just to fuck with my ego.” This was a tease as he played tracks from his Acid Rap mixtape up next: “Favorite Song” and “Cocoa Butter Kisses.”
Afterwards, it was mostly Coloring Book material: “Juke Jam,” “All We Got,” and then his mega-hit “No Problem,” while the fiercely independent artist flashed on his backdrop scathing wordplays on record label name and the crowd just bounced along. This buoyant energy didn’t stop with the bop “All Night,” as the livewire performer swaggered across the stage in Michael Jackson-esque fashion.
“Man, this was a good show tonight. If I ask all of you, I know the answer. I love Manila… I love you specifically,” Chance said during “Summer Friends.” He even showed off his chops freestyling with the track and snuck a little special something among the bars: “I always bring my friends, my friends, my friends, my friends up / I always got to bring my friends out to Manila.”
I observed how the show had been described as a spiritual or religious experience – and variations thereof, sometimes in clever ways. “So many people want to talk about church when they talk about Chance,” wrote American essayist and poet Hanif Abdurraqib.
Yet when we say “Chance took us to church,” it’s not only because of the gospel-influenced production of his music or how well-documented Chance’s Christian faith is.
“Chance the Rapper has probably been to church more recently than I have, or at least he understands the gospel better than I ever will,” Abdurraqib also mused about a situation all too familiar with me. “By which I mean the gospel is, in many ways, whatever gets people into the door to receive whatever blessings you have to offer.”
I saw his iconic “3” cap (his Grammy Awards count) all over the place – in different colors, on so many heads. These super fans were undoubtedly stoked to see Chance. But among us were also friends, siblings, and couples who can effusively talk about the personal impact of his songs: how his music inspired hope and joy in particular moments when we had needed a light to shine.
Sitting on the stage stairs bathed in a lone white spotlight, Chance serenaded his fans with “Same Drugs,” that elegy to growing apart that made a friend or two of mine admit to tearing up. With “Sunday Candy,” he sang about his own light, his grandmother.
He capped the evening with a reprise of “Blessings,” its verse resounding throughout the cavernous arena: “Are you ready for your blessings? / Are you ready for your miracle?”
Why yes, blessings did rain and we hath received.
Thousands-strong, like a wall of sound, the crowd joined, rather became the choir and sung throughout the evening. This wasn’t lost on Chance.
“I wanna say I killed that show, but Manila, y’all just killed that show.” – Rappler.com
Chance the Rapper’s Mall of Asia Arena concert was presented by Globe and produced by MMI Live.