Chance the Rapper, Brixton Academy, gig review: Perfectly planned euphoria

Chance is as engaging singing gospel as whipping through the hits

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Following a storming set by Jay Prince, the crowd at Brixton Academy are running riot. A DJ is playing the biggest records of the past few years, the audience bouncing around like the artists were onstage: as Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” blasts out over the PA, the excitement is palpable. 

And why wouldn’t it be? The most exciting independent artist of the moment, Chance the Rapper, is about to play his second sold-out show at the London venue. Remarkably, not only does Chance lack the backing of a major record label, but he has yet to release a proper album. Instead, his discography consists of just mixtapes and guest features.

Anyone unaware of this homegrown success would never guess from the crowd. Arriving on-stage 30 minutes after his scheduled start, the 23-year-old, backed by his band, The Social Experiment, spends no time waiting around, sending up the room by launching into Colouring Book tracks “Angels” and “Blessings”, almost every word being sung back by 5,000 adoring fans. That would be every word if not for Chance’s incredibly fast-paced flow. 

Chance The Rapper ft. Saba - Angels

Despite being a talented wordsmith, though, the rapper elects to “woo” at the audience rather than talk. “No talking, let’s get everyone jumping,” he says before launching into quick-fire versions of multiple Acid Rap numbers, the room shaking from bass and the crowd bouncing around, following Chance's every command. 

Not until an early cut, “Brain Cells”, does the urgency calm, and then only for a moment. Leaping around the stage once more, Chance blasts back with his verses from Action Bronson’s “Baby Blue”, Kehlani’s “The Way”, and BJ the Chicago Kid’s “Church”, showing off his prolific number of guest features. This culminates in an emotional performance of Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beams”, the standout track from The Life of Pablo and possibly the night’s best moment. 

Chance, however, doesn’t lack renown songs of his own, the following run of “No Problem”, “Mixtape” and “All Night”  leads to the biggest singalong yet. Surprisingly, it’s playing these new, fairly untested songs from Colouring Book that infuses the rapper with confidence, Chance finally relaxing on stage, making for a wonderful Michael Jackson-esque moment in “All Night” where he semi-moonwalks across the stage. 

This renewed bravado leads into part two of the performance, one that is very different to everything beforehand. Songs are no longer cut short but extended: the fast pace fades away and the Academy is transformed into a Chicago church. Like West’s recent record, Chance is very much gospel-inspired, and the second half is almost entirely dedicated to the style, the performer now talking us through every lyric. 

“The word is the gospel, and the gospel is music,” he exclaims midway through a track. Soon after, D.R.A.M appears onstage for “Special”, the set having almost completely changed in tone. That’s not a bad thing whatsoever: Chance is just as engaging converting the crowd as whipping through the hits.

By the end of his second, extended version of “Blessings”, there’s not a single person in the room not fully on board. It’s perfectly planned euphoria, the final lines – “Are you ready/For your blessings” – echoing throughout the great hall even after the light are up. There won’t be a single person leaving not converted to the Church of Chance.