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Concert review: Vince Staples makes the audience the star of the show for Columbus tour stop

Vince Staples performs at Newport Music Hall in Columbus on March 2. Credit: Madison Kelly | For The Lantern

On the latest stop for the “Smile, You’re on Camera” tour, critically-acclaimed hip-hop artist Vince Staples performed to a sold-out crowd at Newport Music Hall on Saturday night.

However, before Staples hit the stage his opening act was Baltimore-based rapper JPEGMAFIA, and his set was nothing short of insane, in the best way possible.

I knew pretty much nothing about him going into the show, but as soon as he hit the stage, the audience hung on to his every word, which was shocking for an opening act.

It was a nice surprise to see how much of the crowd were fans of JPEGMAFIA’s music just as much as they were for Staples. Throughout his set I witnessed some of the wildest mosh pits I’ve ever seen, and he made it a point to be as close to the fans as possible.

At one point in his set, he was 5 feet away from me and I was nowhere near the front of the crowd.

His set turned me into a fan, and my favorite songs from his set were “Baby I’m Bleeding” and “1539 N. Calvert.”

Staples opened his set with “Feels Like Summer,” “Don’t Get Chipped” and “Lift Me Up,” a longtime favorite song of mine.

Staples was full of such a confident yet controlled energy that you could tell he’s been doing this for a very long time.

The coolest part of his set were his visuals because he performed in front of a humongous LED screen that began with a mirror shot of the entire crowd. Once he hit the stage, the visuals displayed a old school security TV monitor that had a camera on Staples the entire time he performed. Because his cameraman was shooting him from the bottom of the stage, it gave a real cinematic feel to the performance.

Instead of flashing fancy visuals for each of his songs, Staples chose to keep the screen black, and this was a smart choice because it continuously kept the focus on him.  The camera work throughout the show almost made the fans and the audience the stars of the show, which rightfully earned the tour’s namesake, “Smile, you’re on camera.”

Some of the personal highlights throughout his set came when he performed songs like “War Ready,” “Tweakin’,” “BagBak,” “Norf Norf” and “Run the Bands.”

As much energy Staples fed off from the crowd, his vocals sounded exactly the same live as they do on his songs, and he never missed a bar as he rapped all his verses effortlessly, no matter how fast they were.

Staples is a master of his craft and it shows.

Even though Staples’ set flew by fairly quickly, he performed a huge chunk of his catalog from his albums “Summertime ’06,” “Big Fish Theory” and “FM!.”

However, the emotional gut punch of the night for me came at the very end of the show. As Staples finished performing “Yeah Right,” he thanked the crowd and paid respects to his late friend and fellow rapper Mac Miller.

As he left the stage the lights stayed low and the full recording of Miller’s NPR Tiny Desk concert from last year played, and the crowd watched intimate performances of “Small Worlds,” “What’s the Use” and “2009.”

This epilogue for one of the wildest rap concerts I’ve ever been to was completely unexpected, but a great surprise. The fact that Staples chose to end his show like this just showed how genuine of a guy he was and how much he cares about his friends and his fans.

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