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Vince Staples pays tribute to Mac Miller and brings “FM!” to life.
Vince Staples was an immense part of Mac Miller’s Celebration of Life concert last year, paying tribute to his late friend with a performance and making sure that the Pittsburgh rapper’s legacy lives on forever. He decided to take things one step further by employing what can be considered the most realistic opportunity at witnessing a Mac Miller live show today on his Smile, You’re On Camera tour. While it’s evident that Vince Staples is the star of the show, a surprise headliner is highlighted after Vince’s set.
I’m in Montreal, Canada. The air is cold as I enter the venue to watch Vince Staples perform on his current tour. Right off the bat, Armani White is entertaining the crowd before the show was even advertised to begin. He only played a few songs but it was enough to get the room at an appropriate energy level. White is a very expressive performer, using his body movements to dictate the pace of the set. His movements are instinctive, rolling around on the floor during his final song and hyping up the crowd for the next artist: Buddy.
The floor is already full with fans excited to spend an evening out with their friends. There is a short intermission between Armani White and Buddy where the latter’s DJ plays songs from 21 Savage, J. Cole, and others. Buddy walks onto the stage for his first song, rocking an enormously oversized jacket (Compton is much warmer than Montreal) and busting out a hype rendition of 2017’s “That Much.” Once his jacket is taken off, the energy immediately skyrockets. Buddy says that he had difficulty getting into the country because, in his words, he was a “bad kid.” “I got a record,” he laughed. Thankfully he made it on time to set the tone further, playing “Black,” “Trippin'” and other favorites.
Buddy’s set is raw and authentic, taking the crowd to Compton with emotion and passion. His movements are calculated and rehearsed, dancing in front of a minimal set-up with no visuals. With so few production specs during Buddy’s performance, Vince Staples’ lighting and design were a shock to the crowd.
“Feels Like Summer” blares over the loudspeakers and Vince Staples makes his introduction to the crowd. Behind him is a prominent visual display of televisions showing security footage. In case you forgot, we’re at the Smile, You’re On Camera tour. One of the monitors shows a live reflection of the crowd singing the words back at Vince. Another displays softcore pornography.
From the start, the crowd is really into him. Vince leads into “Don’t Get Chipped” before finally announcing his arrival on stage. “Welcome to the show,” he says in a nonchalant manner. Before we’re eased into the next song, the production really starts to pick up. This is the point where you may realize you’re witnessing a performance that was carefully plotted from its blueprint stages. The lighting is perfect with fog gradually building behind the Long Beach artist. The lights begin to stutter, flashing at regular intervals as Staples walks along the stage. He appears immortal. “Lift Me Up” starts to play and one fan chooses this point to start crowd surfing.
The lighting is synchronized with each movement Vince makes during “War Ready.” The rapper is truly taking such an intimate venue to the test by making the space feel vast. He is confident, acting as though he’s at home on the stage.
At this point, the set-up changes. A short interlude fills the air with ocean sounds while the lights go black. After a few brief moments, strobes are shining on both sides of the balcony and it’s evident that Vince did some heavy scouting to find the perfect concert venue in each city. Three-point lighting reflects on his head with a microphone stand placed in the middle of the stage. Staples is standing with the swagger of a soul singer, creating a larger than life ambiance.
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The energy begins to diminish with moshpits shrinking in size before Vince makes a declaration. “Keep the energy. If not, there’s the door,” he screams. Instantly, we all perk up and get right back to the party, dancing to “GTFOMD.” His previous statement was the first true “Vince Staples” moment of the show. We know the rapper to be unpredictable in his words, often stirring up some controversy during his interviews. Just the other day, his comments about Jussie Smollett were met with shock and anger. His energy mirrors that of somebody who is unconcerned and laid-back, which could potentially be mistaken for apathy. Right when you might start to think that though, he circles around the stage and raps along to “FUN!” before handing out t-shirts to the fans in the front row.
Once you believe the show is finished, Mac Miller’s face pops up on the screen and speaks to the crowd. At first, it’s bizarre and a little unsettling. However, as footage of his “Tiny Desk” performance with NPR starts to barrel forward, it becomes more of a surreal experience. It sounds cliché but Mac feels like he’s right there, performing an intimate set before a couple of hundred people. It becomes clear that the full video will play, spanning four songs and officially making Mac Miller the headliner of the night. It’s bittersweet when the Pittsburgh star laughs awkwardly in between songs. His infectious smile spreads across the room. We’re in awe of what we’re watching.
The show officially ends with the words “Rest In Peace Mac Miller” displayed on the big screen, leaving the Montreal crowd crying, clapping and grinning from ear to ear.
Some of the strongest moments from the Smile, You’re On Camera tour take place between songs when Vince is just standing on stage with lights flashing on the pitch-black floor. From the dreamlike moments during the Mac Miller tribute to the overall fantastic production of Vince’s set, this tour will be implanted in your memory for a long time.