Scenes From Sunday Night's $1 Pop-Up J. Cole Show at the House of Blues.
It kinda had to, or else: Long ahead of the location of the venue being announced via Cole's Twitter at just a shade after 4 p.m., fans started advantageously lining up at the Victory Park facility well before noon, hoping that rumors of this location ending up the right one panned out. Their guess would prove right, but the 1,200 or so attendees who made it inside for this first stop on Cole's four-city “Dollar and a Dream” tour would have to endure a substantial wait even once they were let into the music hall. The show itself wouldn't start until 8.
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Still, those fans got plenty for their efforts, as a trio of Cole's Dreamville affiliates opened the show. First, Chicago rapper Omen eased fans into the night with a loose and conversational introductory offering. Los Angeles rapper Cozz followed with a boomier set that maintained the established chill vibe. Queens' Bas then lifted the room's energy, performing a high-tempo set and applauding the attendees for being “soldiers for that shit that went down” outside.
Finally, at around 9:30, the reason these crowds soldiered on came to light as J. Cole bounded onto the stage to a thunderous welcome. As promised — both in pre-show reveals and by the shirt he wore on stage — the rapper solely performed cuts from his 2010 Friday Night Lights mixtape.
Mostly, though, the night felt like an opportunity for Cole to once again connect directly with his fans. He extolled the virtues of playing “small” venues like this one and even dabbled in a bit of self-deprecation, joking that he could barely remember the words to the mixtape this tour is celebrating, given that it dropped a full five years ago.
“This tour is for all the people that know all the words to all these songs — because I forgot them,” Cole said with a laugh.
It was a high-energy display, but also an intimate one: The show took on a near-Storytellers quality, with Cole explaining each song's inspiration and how it fits within his life's story.
The night was meant as a thank you to the fans, and Cole's set made good on that. His was a raw, honest performance — one that even those who'd waited some 10 hours to see could appreciate.