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On Sunday Night at The Bomb Factory, Chance The Rapper Gleefully Shattered All Rap Show Expectations.

All photos by Breanna Loose.

In late August, during an otherwise largely nonsensical rant at MTV’s Video Music Awards, Kanye West spoke at least one inarguable truth when he shouted out his fellow Chicago-sprung emcee, the 23-year-old Chance The Rapper, and called him “the future.”

Last night at the Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum, though, “the future” felt a whole lot like “right now.”

For a full 90 minutes, the man born Chancellor Bennett kept his adoring, packed-in-like-sardines crowd fully rapt by juking across the stage, spitting his lyrical truths and generally (further) endearing himself to everyone in the room with his winsome charms. It was a refreshingly humble, oftentimes righteous and at all times unabashedly fun performance — one that stood as the centerpiece of a remarkably tight and truly spectacular greater production.

This Dallas stop on Chance’s Magnificent Coloring World Tour felt like a display befitting of a stadium; it just so happened to be taking place in a 4,800-capacity room, is all. In no uncertain terms, it surpassed any reasonable expectation.

Chance, of course, was the star of his own show, but he had plenty of help: Performing in front of two tiers of LED screens, Chance was backed by a three-piece band (featuring frequent Chance collaborator Donnie Trumpet) that helped fill out the night’s piped-in music, but there were other characters — literally — who made appearances, too. When not addressing his crowd directly to preach a message about staying in the moment, the concert’s narrative centered around an old friend of Chance’s who saw it fit to “make sure [the rapper was] keeping it a hunnid.” That foil — right in line with Chance’s often childhood-oriented aesthetics, which were also on display via the coloring book being sold at the merch booth and featuring the works of Dallas’ own Arturo Torres (a past Central Track contributor!) — was a human-operated, larger-than-life-sized, cartoonish lion puppet named Carlos whose role in the proceedings was to peer pressure his “big fella” into various set list directions — “old stuff” from 2013’s Acid Rap mixtape in particular. Two other human-operated, Sesame Street-like characters — one an ex-flame and the other some sort of benevolent dream monster — joined Carlos at various points in the night. So, too, did four more animatronic lions who danced at the foot of the stage and as many as 14 animatronic birds who mouthed along as the backing choir to Chance’s more gospel-indebted material near the end of the night. They all added up to an indisputably beautiful sight.

Only once did things ever go off-script. Early on in the night, more than a few show attendees near the front of the stage on the floor started fainting — perhaps because of some sort of Beatlemania-like hysteria, but more likely because it was warm throughout the venue on this night but even hotter when crunched shoulder-to-shoulder and amidst the heat of a couple thousand other sweaty bodies. Spotting this, Chance halted proceedings just a couple songs in to plead with his fans to each take a step back from their standing positions so everyone could have a little more space to breath. The crowd just barely acquiesced — until Chance made it clear he wouldn’t continue until they did as he asked, at which point they barely acquiesced a little more, which was good enough for Chance apparently. That breather from the fever pitch that came as Chance entered the stage seemed to help, although the water bottles the security staff up in the photo pit spent the rest of the night tossing out into the crowd didn’t hurt, either. But, after that stop-down, the night continued on without a hitch. (Everyone remember to hydrate in the future, promise?)

Chance, to his credit, was unfazed by that moment. Minutes later, he whipped the crowd into a frenzy once more after a rendition of Coloring Book‘s “Angels” by sheepishly acknowledging that “we don’t have to be soulful the whole time.” From there, he turned to Acid Rap‘s “Pusha Man,” continuing the seesaw between those two albums that he’d ride throughout the night. Only once did he really deviate from that, dropping his verse from his fan/friend Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam,” also from this year.

The crowd — a diverse set of teens and young twentysomethings, mostly — likely would’ve eaten up whatever Chance fed them, though. To that end, it’s likely the uniqueness of this show’s high-minded, theatrical setup went over some of their heads, but they paid respect just the same, going dead silent whenever Chance addressed them between songs. Part of me pities those young fans, who may now expect such a spectacle moving at all rap shows moving forward.

Still, Chance was appreciative of their support, calling out Dallas as one of the cities he’s been touring to for the longest before shouting out Trees (the first Dallas stage he performed upon), JMBLYA (the festival at which he performed his first Dallas headlining set), ScoreMore (the promotions company behind JMBLYA and this night’s show alike) and Sascha Stone Guttfreund (ScoreMore’s founder). He displayed similar humility earlier in the night when he joined opener Francis & The Lights on stage for that act’s final song — an act reciprocated later as Francis re-joined Chance on stage for the night’s encore offering of “Summer Friends.”

If Chance is indeed “the future,” then we all appear to have many an uplifting, euphoric time ahead of us. Last night, though, the presence of such ideals were far more immediate.

We should be so lucky to live in a world like that at all times.

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