Lil Nas X concert review: The rapper takes his horse (and other paraphernalia) to an Uptown show that’s as much a game as a concert
Opening the poster handed out at Lil Nas X’s concert on Saturday night at the Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom, attendees were told, “This isn’t your usual show.” Truer words have never been spoken.
The Atlanta rapper has never done anything conventional from the start, so his first tour should be no different. After kicking off in Detroit on Sept. 6, leg two is a double-header in Chicago (returning Sunday night) where Lil Nas X transformed Uptown’s historic ballroom into a supernova musical theater stage. .
The three-act performance sits somewhere between Shakespeare’s bawdy fairy tale “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and a classic rock opera, with a dose of Madonna’s “Truth or Dare” tour, thanks to the eight talented dancers who are as cheeky as them. are skilled and just begging to have their own backstage rock doc.
Since 2019, Lil Nas X – born Montero Hill – has come to define virality in the digital age. His wildly unexpected country-trap hit “Old Town Road” still holds the title of longest-running No. 1 song ever on the Billboard chart. He is also the only artist to come out as gay while having a #1 record and the only black LGBTQ+ artist to win an award from the notoriously conservative Country Music Association.
The epitome of an underdog success story, this trip is at the heart of the “Long Live Montero” tour. The artist explained the idea in the poster, through a personal letter on the front page. “Hello ladies and gentlemen and non-binary and bottoms: welcome to the Long Live Montero Tour. So much has led up to that time in your life where you somehow decided that you wanted to see a gay of 6 feet 2 inches perform on stage.
The letter continued, “You will see me in a play about me, featuring me as me, with music by me. …This piece is about my journey, what I’ve been through…and my aspirations to continue on my path in life. Through three acts – “Rebirth”, “Transformation” and “Becoming” – audiences have the unique chance to see the artist’s evolution up close and personal.
The setlist fits well into this narrative plot. In Act I, we see Lil Nas X come to terms with identity on the vulnerable ballad “Sun Goes Down,” then watch the social media makeover of “Old Town Road” that inked his stardom. In Act II, a more confident character emerges behind the assertive pop punk anthem “That’s What I Want”. As the song ends, the curtain drops, superimposed with the silhouette of Lil Nas X and one of his dancers kissing.
In Act III there is the loss of an alter ego to reveal his true self in “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” as he wears a pair of giant butterfly wings (a motif from the tour) to signify the complete transformation. It ends with the song that became her new identity, “Industry Baby”.
It’s hard to imagine that at just 23 and on his first tour, Lil Nas X already has a show that feels like a big Vegas residency. It takes a village to raise an artist of this caliber and the rapper thanked many in the poster with five full pages of credits. Two more were devoted to costumes by Stuart Vevers, creative director of luxury brand Coach, who provided the looks, described as “the romance of the American West”, the splendor of Versailles and “college glamour”. All lived up to Lil Nas X’s exponent as a style icon who consistently rocks every red carpet.
We can’t say enough about the dancers and choreography on this tour that mixes genres as much as Lil Nas X does in his music. Gymnastic hijinks, formal ballet and twerking were combined in a display of the sheer power of the human body. Each of the eight talents had their own introduction towards the end of the show, as a backing band might be recognized at a traditional concert. Without a live band, they were the backbone Lil Nas X needed for the multi-sensory feast.
There were some technical difficulties throughout the night with cues and props (such as an awkward entry and exit of a giant metal horse during “Old Town Road”). Lil Nas X apologized for the snafus, but no one seemed to notice as the sold-out crowd was swept away every moment of the short hour-long set. First impressions always count, and with his inaugural tour, Lil Nas X emerges as an icon in the making.