REVIEW: Post Malone channels agony, ecstasy at Oakland Arena

Post Malone

Post Malone performs at Oakland Arena in Oakland on Nov. 14, 2019. Adam Pardee/Staff.

OAKLAND — A sellout crowd at Oakland Arena underscored the meteoric success of Post Malone, who performed Thursday with his signature zeal. Boasting hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify and widespread, multi-generational name recognition, Austin Richard Post sang from the heart. His bear-like stage presence indicated a man with no doubts about his commitment and vision, as he made a passionate effort and lifted spirits throughout the giant room.

Post Malone

Post Malone performs at Oakland Arena in Oakland on Nov. 14, 2019

The immense visual scale of the concert lent it a sense of futuristic, fashion-conscious grandeur. The stage was set up as a runway, giving Post Malone plenty of room to jump, curl and appeal to the pits on either side. Around him, a highly coordinated ambience featured startling bursts of fireworks, glowing mist and sizzling laser beams. Two 50-foot projection screens provided close-up glimpses of the hip-hop star. Monstrous bass rattled the auditorium as he rolled through a series of highly recognizable pop hits. The predominantly teenaged audience loved it.

Post Malone’s lyrics suggest that his success has come in spite of, not because of his origins. “Saint Tropez” presented a litany of boasts hatched from his hyper-determined subconscious. He emphasized his material achievements with references to yachts, karats and double-platinum sales as though he had something major to prove. Meanwhile on “Enemies,” he peppered his past detractors with vengeful swipes and the stated intent to snub them the next time around.

Yet his delivery saved the songs from becoming defensive testaments to bitterness. His infectious downbeat grooves and approachable—even vulnerable—persona permeated the entire performance. The backing tracks aligned more with visions of sipping Courvoisier in the back of an Escalade than spearheading a spite-driven beatdown. His earnest performance implied a commitment to self-validation rather than a serious attempt to belittle the less fortunate.

This came through in Post Malone’s themes of gratitude and humility throughout the night. While introducing the song that kickstarted his career, “White Iverson,” Post Malone—dressed in white sneakers, baggy jammy pants, and an over-sized T-shirt picturing a virile tyrannosaurus rex—expressed a thankfulness to the fans who made it possible.

He described mega-hit “Goodbyes” with soul-punching directness.

“It’s about feeling like shit, having your heart broken, and still not being able to say goodbye,” he said without a trace of irony, before commanding his crew to “play dat shit!” The sprightly tattoo-covered artist bounced around the stage like a hype-MC, relating the struggle of a painful separation.

Post Malone

Post Malone performs at Oakland Arena in Oakland on Nov. 14, 2019

His set incorporated a commendable pyrotechnic exposition. Loud explosions punctuated songs at unexpected moments, as did silver comets trailing showers of sparks in their upward ascent. Rich cobalt-blue lights bathed the stage for “I Fall Apart,” from 2016’s Stoney, as a warm orange glow emanated from erupting flame jets behind him.

The set was heavy on Post Malone’s most recent material. At the outset, a wall around the stage slowly levitated into the rafters, releasing pink mist on the stage. He passionately poured his spirit into “Hollywood Is Bleeding.” Playing on his sensitive tough guy image, he set forceful statements against the chill-vibes of his soundtracks. Strong performances ensued on “Die For Me” and the relaxed “Candy Paint,” during which even some of the parental chaperones swayed along.

Several times, the 24-year old reminded everyone of his raison d’etre, extolling the virtues of partying. Opener Swae Lee joined for “Spiderman” soundtrack single “Sunflower” and the two bounced off each other’s energy. To honor the concept of “Rockstar” Post Malone smashed an acoustic guitar and poured beer everywhere, even managing to get a little in his mouth. However, he also imbued the proceedings with positivity. Closer “Congratulations” was prefaced with a live-your-dreams manifesto.

“Do whatever you want to do,” he roared. “And don’t let anyone stop you!”

A dazzling laser grid ensconced Malone as an array of fireworks heralded the finale.

Swae Lee

Swae Lee performs at Oakland Arena in Oakland on Nov. 14, 2019

Preceding Malone was the energizing Swae Lee, who with his lithe physique and prominent dreadlocks cut a dashing figure as he bounded about the stage. Lee, who scored big hits in recent years on collaborations with French Montana and Travis Scott, was quite at home in front of the large crowd. He riled people up with his emphasis on having a good time and spreading positive vibes.

Hundreds of fans flipped on their cell-phone lights, peppering the arena with bright hovering discs. Wearing sparkly basketball shoes, he moved with the agility of an athlete. Behind him played strange CGI videos of disembodied hands, Cubist butterflies and a live feed of Lee’s visage treated with a mosaic filter.

Lee brought the fire for “No Type,” an energetic Rae Sremmurd tune from 2014. The cutting words of the chorus did nothing to dampen the rave-like beach party atmosphere, bringing the crowd to its feet. A leather-clad temptress strutted about the stage for several songs, enticing Lee with bootylicious dance moves.

Other highlights included “Unforgettable” and “Powerglide.” On the latter song, Lee honored Oakland as one of the “top five [cities] in the world.” Lee then ran into the audience, jumped a security stanchion, and climbed up to the second tier to hang back with fans and give hi-fives.

Tyla Yaweh

Tyla Yaweh performs at Oakland Arena in Oakland on Nov. 14, 2019.

Opening act Tyla Yaweh performed a 20-minute set in a similar vein. Like the other acts, he emphasized positivity and the importance of living out one’s dreams. During one song, he popped out to a small platform in the middle of the floor, getting up close and personal with the audience. His acrobatic set pushed his voice to the limit, hyping up the fans as they filed to their seats. He lent a personal touch by projecting his cell phone number and Instragram tag on the big screen.

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