When 2 Chainz’s “I’m Different” comes on, I start to freak out a little.
I’m at the ARC Pavilion, typically home to UC Davis basketball games and the beloved wiener dog races during Picnic Day. Tonight, it holds the final show of Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World Tour.
The crowd? Almost exclusively college students, dressed to impress and probably drunk and high. The line to enter took forever because of the three layers of security checks. One guard asked me to “pop the collar” on my flannel shirt because apparently that’s where kids hide their drugs now.
During the hour-long wait for Chance to come on stage, the sold-out crowd is going nuts, freak dancing so hard that couples start toppling over. I feel like a supervisor at a high school dance or a mom at a frat party. I back away slowly, further and further.
But who I am to judge? This is genuinely the party of the year for UC Davis students, put on by UC Davis students—sort of. Though the tour is presented by Another Planet Entertainment, UC Davis student government arm Entertainment Council booked the show. Chance is the group’s first major get in years, considering students were known for booking epic acts regularly in the past, including Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Snoop Dogg.
Tonight, though, it’s hard to believe that the Chance show brewed up a quite a bit of racial tension on campus. Everyone seems united in their thirst for partying, and when Chance finally comes out, they hang on his every word. The endearing rapper is a magnetic performer, and with his Magnificent Coloring World Tour, he takes it further by basically putting on a piece of musical theater.
Throughout his set, a muppet-like lion named Carlos appears, urging Chance to conduct his show in a certain manner. Chance weaves between old and new material, never satisfying Carlos and ultimately spiraling into a state of confusion. It’s sweet and childlike—Chance even takes a nap onstage.
For “Same Drugs,” an old flame appears—also a muppet-like character—and the pair sing soulfully together with Chance on piano. It’s beautiful, oddly heartbreaking, and ends with an explosion of confetti.
After about 90 minutes, with countless urges from Carlos to remember Chance’s “path” and “message,” Chance finally gets it. A massive puppet choir appears amid swirls of rainbow patterns, and Chance begins to preach his gospel. He calls himself a miracle child. He talks about God.
The concert ends—or is it all part of his act?—but Chance won’t leave the stage. He compels the audience to put away their phones, to get in close, to listen to the truth he’s about to drop.
“Sometimes I try to write it as poetic as possible so it’s real catchy for you,” he says, confessional in style. “I think sometimes when I do that, the whole message I was trying to convey gets lost in translation.”
And finally, the big reveal: “Did you know that you are blessed?”
Photo by Paul Piazza