The Lil’ Wayne “I’m Still Music” tour proved to be a force to be reckoned with. Having seen the same stage host many other artists, Rogers Arena (formerly GM Place) proved to be the right landscape for the vast musical catalogue that his discography boasts.
There are several considerations vital to a stadium show versus that of a smaller venue. Firstly of course, there’s the price, which tends to be considerably higher than your 400 person or your 2,000 person venue. There’s also where you’re located and how much of a fan you are of the artist. The bang for buck is what we’re all searching for. Vancouver’s leg of the “I’m Still Music” tour was definitely worth the price of admission, no matter where you were. The larger screens featured an accurate and well chosen array of close up shots during the night. The only exception was during Rick Ross’ set. For some reason the shot remained static, just Ross standing in front of a 30 foot canopy where no close up was seen of the rapper on the screens. If you were privileged to be close enough, or have floor seats, he was in full view. But throughout the night the only rapper without close ups was Ricky Rozay.
From the get go, the carefully planned show went smoothly. Travis Barker and Mixmaster Mike kicked things off, performing inside of a blown up boom box; Mixmaster Mike scratching and mixing in the circle meant for one speaker, and Barker drumming inside the other. The visual depiction was fantastic, and a surprise cameo by Paul Wall had a lot of onlookers stunned.
Barker showcased his drumming talents, stepping up a fast tempo beat for a mash up of Outkast’s “Bombs Over Baghdad.” He continued through an array of songs, drumming away seamlessly alongside MMM’s mash ups. “Give The Drummer Some” of course was the album most drawn from, and for an opening act the performance was superb.
Rick Ross’ set followed shortly thereafter. The Teflon Don performed in signature fashion, emerging with ferocity after a Pulp Fiction sampled intro and Thriller laugh sample. He kicked his set off with “MC Hammer” and proceeded to run through “Husslin,” “Aston Martin Music” and brought Masspike Miles out to be his hypeman, aiding Ross on “Cigar Music” and taking T-Pain’s role for Ross to perform live renditions of DJ Khaled hits. “Blowin’ Money Fast” received the strongest response, the back and forth crowd response from the hook was perfect as with “I’m Not A Star” also received a huge reception.
Rick Ross concentrated on promoting the new Maybach Music release “Self Made” throughout his 30 minute set (which appeared longer as he performed more verses than full songs). His call and response with “Self” / “Made” back and forth with the crowd appeared somewhat corny, however he’s in the position he’s in and is “self made” as a result of his marketing practices.
Though apparent early on, once Lil’ Wayne took the stage, wearing a Vancouver Canucks Hockey Jersey and fitted cap (the Canucks having won a significant game the night before), the weed aroma’s kicked up a notch. They had been around earlier, as with most concerts, but as Wayne came out the joints became considerably more prevalent.
The strong roar of the crowd was impossible not to partake in as he ascended from beneath the stage, straight into “I’m Going In.” From there on, the show was Wayne’s with the New Orleans native commanding his audience’s every look. The Cash Money/Young Money rapper had a full band behind him, and a three story set of scaffolding that he alternated which level he stood and performed upon. Behind the scafolding stood screens projecting slideshows and animations showcasing the various songs. Weezy’s energetic presence on stage and non-stop movement was captivating.
Midway through Lil’ Wayne’s set he informed the crowd that he had to go change, the arena was lit up briefly before darkening again. A sequence from Gladiator where Russell Crowe enters the arena played out behind him on the main screen as a man that the audience assumed was Lil’ Wayne, covered by a hood, barefoot, and wearing a Monk’s robe emerged. It was revealed not to be Wayne, but in fact SB (Nicki Minaj’s hypeman) as Nicki Minaj asceneded from beneath the stage wearing a corset, a signature beehive wig and extremely colourful tights. She began with “Roman’s Revenge,” running around the stage whilst her dancers interpreted and performed their choreographed moves. The dancers collaborated to create a football set up, where Nicki ran through them, scored a touchdown and was met by a referee at the end of it all.
Unsurprisingly, a large amount of men surrounding me sat down, uninterested in Minaj. They even booed, but couldn’t be heard over the roars and screams of the thousands of adoring onlookers. Minaj performed her hits from “Pink Friday” before Lil Wayne returned and Minaj briefly made a stage exit to change her wig. Minaj had trouble hiding her smile, which was cute. Her performance solidified her validity as a rapper, with her high paced movement and breath control working to bring her material to life.
Wayne made his return shortly thereafter, running through hits and verses from collaborations with Drake, Eminem and DJ Khaled amongst others, bringing out his own guitar and singing some of his rock songs as well. The set included several theatrical performances where actresses would come out on stage to aid in his live renditions including a woman loosely dressed in a police uniform to play out “Miss Officer.” Fireworks and flame bursts occassionally spruced up Wayne’s set, but at no point were they necessary as Lil Wayne live is far superior than on his recordings.
The “I’m Still Music” tour is definitely a stadium show, organized to perfection. The light collages set up behind the artists were served as a great accentuation and the close ups for those in poor seated areas were orchestrated to perfrection by the live feed on huge display screens. Wherever you were, the atmosphere and the way Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross and Travis Barker performed was phenomenal.
Photograph by Adam LeBlanc