I will be the first to admit that Vince Staples isn’t one of my favorite artists, let alone rappers. But at Newport Music Hall Wednesday night, Staples put on great show. Staples’ energy was so electric and his transitions from song to song were so seamless that it caught me by complete surprise.
Going into the concert, I sparingly listened to Vince Staples, prompting me to have little to no expectations. I was just hoping that he was going to be competent. It had been a while since I listened to his most recent albums, “Prima Donna” and “Summertime ’06,” so as he played songs from both albums, it was almost like I discovered a new artist again. The music struck such a chord with me that I began to realize how wrong I was about Staples.
The concert had a very peculiar beginning. Before the opening act Kilo Kish came on the stage, there was a movie playing — in rewind and on mute — in the background of the stage. Various types of music accompanied it, from the Migos to indie pop. The movie was ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” an ode to the name of the tour: The Life Aquatic Tour.
As the movie concluded in its entirety, Kish began performing at about 9 p.m. What ensued was the most bizarre musical act I have ever seen. Kish started with “Hello, Lakisha,” which served as an introduction about the artist. It was so up-tempo and quick it sounded like a choreographed number in a Broadway show. As the songs went along, Kish, in addition to singing, started moving around, expressing her emotions through dance. At first the crowd was silent because of how foreign her actions were, but as the set went on, people starting picking up on the performance and by the end, she was given a resounding round of applause. It felt like I was literally watching performance art.
After the performance by Kish and appropriate stage rearrangements, Staples came out at 10 p.m. and immediately starting performing the song “Lift Me Up.” The song, wasn’t overly strong, and it allowed Staples to kick the show off with a song that was calm enough to start, but also one that would get the fans immediately engaged.
After a few introductory songs, Staples then drew songs from his latest two albums with “Loca,” “Birds & Bees,” “Big Time,” and “War Ready.” Unexpectedly, he threw in the song “Smoke & Retribution,” a 2016 Flume song he is featured on. It brought a distinctly different sound than the catalogue he had been playing. The song is a combination of the rhythmic electronic sounds that are a staple of Flumes work, and the high energy and flow Staples is known for. It remains one of my favorite songs of the Flume album.
After performing what seemed to be the final song of the night “We Own Ya,” Staples announced to the crowd that the show had concluded. At this point, Staples had played about 15 songs by my tally. The crowd wasn’t pleased. “One more song” they chanted. It didn’t take much and long for Staples to do a complete 180 and come back to perform not just one song, but two. The songs he chose to closeout the show, “Norf, Norf “and “Summertime” — arguably his two biggest hits — provided an ending to the concert that felt necessary.
In the end, the concert was far better than I thought it was going to be. And for that, I’m sorry that I ever doubted Vince Staples, because he sure put on one hell of a show.