LaFlame, Circus Maximus, Cactus Jack, whatever you want to call him, Travis Scott is becoming the face of hip-hop in this decade. Bouncing back from the Astroworld tragedies over 2 years ago, he finally came out with a new body of work, “Utopia,” last year. The album solidified itself as the first hip-hop album to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Albums Chart in 2023. Shortly after its release, Travis announced his Circus Maximus U.S. tour which I was lucky enough to snag tickets for. Unfortunately, the first show in Chicago at the United Center got postponed just hours before due to Travis’s flight being canceled. Thankfully, he rescheduled the show a couple weeks later to January 3rd. During our 30 minute drive to the United Center my friend and I saw the X post from Travis Scott, ‘It wasn’t a bus a plane a train a pilot a conductor a cab… that was gonna keep me away from CHICAGO TONIGHT,’ he wasn’t going to let us down this time.
While we weren’t able to buy floor seats, ours were arguably better anyways. In the 100s section at row 4 we were essentially eye level to the performer and we were almost directly behind the DJ booth. An hour after the doors opened at 6:30, a surprise guest appeared to play a quick set which was none other than Don Toliver. At first, I was expecting a Chicago artist, but it makes sense because the Houston rapper is on Travis’s label: Cactus Jack Records. He started off with the fan favorite ‘After Party’ to bring some energy out of the crowd before continuing with ‘Too Many Nights’ a song that he features on the latest Metro Boomin’ album ‘Heroes and Villains.’ One aspect of Don’s music that makes him recognizable is his use of singing incorporated into his rapping which he showcased live. Later in his short setlist, the DJ spinned the billion+ played ‘Lemonade,’ a song with one of Don’s best hooks to date. The fiery tracklist prominently showed off his catchiest songs and didn’t overstay its welcome.
Crickets. All you could hear for an hour were crickets, following Don Toliver’s performance which were likely a callback to Travis’s deepcut song ‘Maria I’m Drunk’ my favorite song from him. The atmosphere of the song filled the stadium until the lights dimmed, the crowd got their phones out, and out of nowhere Travis Scott popped out from under the stage backed by the yelping vocals from ‘Hyena.’ The sample rang throughout my ears until the bass came in giving me goosebumps and almost knocked my phone right out of my hand. Travis’s first verse on the song was enhanced as the light shined down bright on him focusing everyone's attention on him as his words were speeding up. Right at the climax of the song with the heavy synths produced by none other than Mike Dean he transitioned into the next song ‘Thank God.’ Travis started going back and forth around the stage during the 2nd beat of the song as the hi-hats were played on top of the prominent strings. Flames bursted out of the stage as he continued “raging” as I finally felt immersed into the vibe. Surprisingly, Travis stayed in order of the tracklist for Utopia as he played the bouncy ‘Modern Jam.’ The track had Travis jumping up and down at the top of his stage while the lights for the first time changed its color palette to be much brighter, vibrant colors representing the less serious, but colorful song.
The highlights continued as Travis switched into a song meant for concerts, ‘Aye.’ While not his song, Lil Uzi Vert gave him a big portion of the track that he singled out to play live. It was a common occurrence for him to play only a part of a song during his performance on songs that he didn’t rap on entirely. In my opinion it helped keep the energy high and allowed him to play a lot more songs off of his past album. I was happy to hear him play many songs off of his debut album ‘Rodeo,’ including the chorus dominated ‘3500’ which did not disappoint at all. Prior to the song he chose random fans to ride what he called “The Carousel,” a big floating head with shining EDM like lights that faced my side of the stage. It was unique for sure, combining the roller coaster theme park aspects of his second album ‘Astroworld’ to the weird and old humanoid aspects of ‘Utopia.’ Later he performed the club anthem ‘Nightcrawler’ continuing his streak of playing songs off of his debut album. Unlike all the other songs he performed it was acapella which I think was a good switch up.
The second half of the show kept fans entertained as he progressed through more highlights off of ‘Utopia.’ The drums on ‘Sirens’ were just as prevalent live as they were on the original song. ‘God’s Country’ was very woozy and was a short banger, but what really touched fans the most was ‘My Eyes.’ The song is not only an ode to his past relationship with Kylie Jenner, but more importantly an ode to the Astroworld victims. As Travis sang the intro of Bon Iver’s autotuned verse, the stage lifted him directly upwards in white smoke. It was very heartfelt and a good break between the “mosh pit songs.” Right after he played some of his biggest songs to date including ‘Butterfly Effect,’ ‘Highest In the Room,’ and ‘Mamacita.’ The three song run was exactly what the fans hoped for. It was nice to see Don Toliver come back on stage for ‘Can’t Say’ the cut that Travis and Don have together off of ‘Astroworld.’ Nearing the end of the 2-hour performance Travis Scott was demanded by fans to play his rage cut Fe!n. In past shows he had played the song 10 times in a row which garnered attention by many people online. Travis Scott had actually appeared on Jimmy Kimmel live to talk about it a couple weeks ago. Every single time he played it the lights would flicker black and white that was almost blinding, but hype at the same time.
After finishing up with a few more fan favorites he ended the show with his mega-hit Goosebumps to send fans on their way. I had a great time and it sounded like other fans had a similar experience, as I was overhearing conversations about the show when walking out of the United Center. Overall Travis Scott did not disappoint, and I look forward to hearing more material from him in the future. If you had to ask me, I would say it’s definitely worth the 100-200$ price to see him play live. Travis Scott actually has one more tour date in Chicago, January 22nd! If you’re interested you should check it out!