Before Chance the Rapper could truly delve into his set Friday night, he had to rewind.
The Chicago native admitted Dallas was one of his first cities ever visited on tour, but there was something he forgot to do when he rolled through Deep Ellum with Mac Miller two or three years ago: introduce himself.
Mocking his past awkwardness and stage presence, he shyly took on the mannerism of the rapper he was when his 2012 mixtape, 10 Day, had an extremely loyal but limited following, and his 2013 mixtape, Acid Rap, was just on the cusp of exploding.
If the kids at Trees back then treated Chance like a new kid at school, the 4,000 in attendance at South Side Ballroom let him know he was the big man on campus now.
Put it in permanent marker: Two years later, Acid Rap still bangs.
The unassuming headliner hit the stage in a Lion King t-shirt and his nearly signature Chicago White Sox fitted hat. He clearly wasn't 100 percent after missing a show in North Carolina this week with the flu, but he toughed it out with high-energy renditions of songs such as "Everybody's Something" and "Smoke Again" from Acid Rap as a sellout crowd crooned and strutted along.
He was backed by the Social Experiment, a band for which he is also a vocalist. He released a free album with them on iTunes earlier this year.
Chance had the only set of the evening that felt like a show. But, his winding performance still tested teen attention spans. Slower tunes with serious grooves such as "Church" (his collaboration with BJ the Chicago Kid from earlier this year) and "Baby Blue" (which he recorded with Action Bronson) were well-received but seemingly built-in breathers. At every threat of the show grinding to a halt, the Social Experiment's Donnie Trumpet had his horn ready and saved the day.
By the time Chance launched into highly-anticipated tracks "Juice" and his newest song, "Angels," the captive audience seemed to have a second wind. Timely lights and pyro helped.
Sprits were sky high by the time he closed with his Arthur-inspired hit, "Wonderful Everyday" which is reworking of the PBS cartoon's theme song.
The Family Matters Tour wasn't a well-oiled machine. Instead of seamlessly incorporating acts and giving off the family vibe conveyed by posters and merch, the show came off as slightly disjointed but still enjoyable.
About the openers ...
D.R.A.M. was one of three warmup acts, and the Virginia emcee ran into an audience that was probably a decade too young to appreciate the nostalgia he was kicking out. His spirit-lifting rendition of the Family Matters theme song from his mixtape #1EpicSummer flew over the heads of an audience full of concertgoers who were infants in the '90s and now plotting out post-graduation breakups (note: that really happened).
Metro Boomin was the opening act I was most intrigued to see. No one really knew what to expect from the hitmaker behind jams like iLoveMakonnen's "Tuesday" and the lion's share of Drake and Future's recent No. 1 album What a Time to Be Alive. Would he rap? Maybe DJ? What does he do on stage, exactly? Well, he offered up a really dope shower playlist while shuffling through hits he'd crafted like Future's "Thought It Was A Drought" and party starters from other artists like Waka Flocka Flame and Kid Cudi. He failed to leave an impression of his own identity, but at least he woke the place up.
Towkio had the night's toughest spot. The Chicagoan gave it all to disinterested teens up until the very last note. His last song, "Heaven Only Knows," happened to be only one people really knew and much like the verse that was missing from the record, his set was missing one big thing: headliner Chance the Rapper.