There is definitely something strange about showing up alone to a tour titled “Family Matters.” Not that everyone had brought their grandparents to the Olympia—as I was secretly hoping they would—but the title of the show insisted on celebrating the purest and most complete type of love that, and as such the idea of buying a single ticket was almost unacceptable behaviour. Still, as a long-time fan of Chancelor Bennett, a.k.a. Chance the Rapper, I was not going to miss the lyrical genius’ first headlining performance in Montreal simply because my friends were broke and it felt weird going by myself.
The doors had been open for an hour when I got to the venue, but as the yet-to-be-half-full floor seemed to imply, the prospect of no less than three opening acts had delayed the arrival of the more casual Chance listeners. The first in line was Towkio, whose recently released first mixtape, .WAV Theory, boasts a pleasant, funky vibe. For 25 minutes, he ran and jumped around the stage nonstop, accomplishing the spectacular feat of never skipping a beat while simultaneously sounding like he was about to collapse. He closed the set with his sole hit—the John Legend sampling “Heaven Only Knows”—and had the crowd sing loudly for the first time of the night.
Second up was D.R.A.M., an extremely charismatic R&B singer who could have easily handled opening the show by himself. He emerged on stage confidently showcasing dance moves that would make your dad jealous, while sporting long dreads and a smile as contageous as Drake’s. In between irresistible jams such as “$” and “Caretaker”—which he performed twice for good measure—D.R.A.M. had us repeatedly scream “spread love,” up until the point the silly slogan actually started to sound like a legitimate mantra. He ended his performance with “Cha Cha,” the sleeper-hit that greatly inspired “Hotline Bling.” It was so good that I was still dancing after he had left the stage.
Frankly, the less said about final opener Metro Boomin’s set, the better. He might be today’s most in-demand trap music producer—he was the executive producer on Future and Drake’s collaborative mixtape “What a Time to Be Alive”—but it does not excuse his lack of doing anything behind his pads. No stage presence, no DJ-ing, no nothing. If I had only wanted to listen to a playlist of his best songs, I would have stayed home and found one on Apple Music. Also, 9:20 is way too early to be fist-pumping to Future’s “Fuck Up Some Commas.”
Finally, at exactly 10:04 P.M., Chance the Rapper and his band The Social Experiment hit the Olympia’s stage. For almost an hour and a half, the 22-year-old Chi-town representative dexterously rapped his unique brand of syllable-heavy, dialogue-like raps above jazzy reworks of his most celebrated work in front of a packed venue. His rendition of “Miracle,” with its tongue-twisting, seemingly improvised flow, was particularly impressive. Charismatic, funny and deeply likable, Chance gave such a riveting performance, I only realised the morning after that he did not even play “Juice,” one of his biggest singles to date. Judging by the way the people around me were losing their mind at the first notes of each song, I wouldn’t be surprised if many still haven’t noticed.
To me, the show’s highlight happened at the end of the performance of “Interlude (That’s Love).” After some heartfelt thank-yous to the crowd for coming out to see him, Chance started strolling around at the edge of the stage, pointing at one person after the other while playfully repeating “I love you” in various rhythmic patterns. Chance connected to us all, and for a moment, the thousand strangers surrounding me were my family.