OAKLAND — Chance the Rapper brought the gospel to the Oracle Arena Wednesday. The gospel of Chance, that is.
Returning to the Bay Area for the second time in less than a year, Chance the Rapper stopped by Oakland on his “Be Encouraged” tour, bringing with him his signature uplifting and spiritual brand of rap to a sold-out show.
Chancellor Johnathan Bennett may just be the only hip-hop artist today who can convert an arena of thousands into believers. But while Chance fervently and outspokenly worships God, the audience seemed to be worshiping him. How many other mainstream artists out there can get several thousand people to chant “I’m gonna praise him” and “Praise God” with them?
After a nearly 80-minute delay, Chance got his show started with a bang. Literally.
Fireworks and pyrotechnics replaced the cute puppet show of last year’s “Magnificent Coloring World Tour,” along with bright LED screens, an appropriately timed burst of streamers, during a performance of”No Problem,” and a riser lifting him up from the stage.
While all the flash and props were spectacular, Chance’s best performance came during his quiet and emotional performance of “Same Drugs,” as he sat still on a stool at a piano, his four backup singers accompanying him. Not one to miss a chance at making it a showstopper, he stopped mid-song to finish it atop an elevated metal lift hovering over the center of the arena floor, much to the delight of his fans.
Performing music from his albums “Acid Rain” and his Grammy-winning “Coloring Book,” Chance gave his fans a nonstop 80-minute set of his mainstream hits mixed with deeper, spiritually-tinged songs like “How Great.” His three-man band including a trumpeter, drummer and keyboardist, and the four backup singers were on point throughout the night, bringing the aforementioned gospel elements that distinguish Chance’s music. And while he’s not an amazing singer, Chance’s almost boyish and timid singing voice works well in contrast with the gospel voices of his singers.
The 24-year-old’s unlikely success has certainly made the music industry believers in him. “Coloring Book” made history as the first-ever streaming-only album to not only be nominated for but win three Grammys.
And while subtle, Chance took the opportunity to target big record companies during the show on his video screen, showing the names and logos for fake record companies like “Phony” for “Sony” or “Undiverse” for “Universal.” He also made a point to mention and flash images of the three Grammys he won for “Coloring Book.” It’s not clear whether he was using his Grammys to subtly stick it to the record companies or if he was just acknowledging his own accomplishments.
Either way, Chance could see just how much he’s accomplished this past year as he looked out at the vast audience at Oracle who have believed in him.
“I’m never gonna forget the sound of me saying ‘Oakland’ in a room of 15,000 people,” he said.
Follow reporter Heather Ah San at Twitter.com/heathermalia.