Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Oct. 20, 2020

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Chance the Rapper’s virtual concert was pretty good

Show was recorded at Ralph Lauren store in Chicago


CHICAGO — Chance the Rapper was among the thousands of musicians who had 2020 tours canceled, although his “The Big Day” tour was not a casualty of COVID-19. The Chicago rapper nixed his tour in late 2019, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family following the birth of his second child.

But, on Monday night, Chance made up (somewhat) for the change of plans, streaming a special show that had been pre-recorded at the Ralph Lauren flagship store in downtown Chicago.

The show was not just a belated extension of the “Big Day” tour either. Instead of rolling out a bunch of tracks from his latest album — as he ostensibly would have on a big-venue, LP-supporting tour — Chance took the snug setting of the RL store and filled it with some of his more intimate songs during a tight, 27-minute set.

After six months of missing live shows, you’d be forgiven if you felt reluctant at the prospect of another streamed concert. Still, Chance wasn’t lying: Monday’s digital show did offer an uncommon opportunity to see him perform songs that normally wouldn’t make a live set list. You weren’t going to hear “No Problem” ringing off the walls of the Ralph store.

The cooing harmony of “Summer Friends”  the nostalgic cut lodged in the middle of “Coloring Book”— led off the concert, its opening vocals floating over close-up shots of the burnished store shelves and details of Chance’s fit. As the song began in earnest, the camera panned back to reveal a seven-piece band, including Chance, three backup vocalists, pianist, drummer and the rapper’s longtime collaborator/trumpet player Nico Segal.

Half-sitting on a stool in the front of the group, Chance still had great energy, with stirring performances of his “Friends” opener, as well as his relationship ode, “Work Out.” By the time he finished “Ballin Flossin,” though, the rapper was up off the stool, brimming with a level of animation that would probably be frowned upon during the Ralph Lauren store’s normal business hours.

The show soon peaked with a lively rendition of “On the Run,” one that felt like watching someone let loose on the track during a private sing-a-long: “That was really fun. I’m tired,” he said at the end.

From a production standpoint, the stream was exceptional — certainly among the best setups for sound and video that music fans would have encountered during the ongoing shift toward live-streamed or other digital shows. The show was streamed on Chance and Ralph Lauren’s social networks, as well as YouTube, and came through crystal-clear on my internet connection.

The sound mix was even better. Each of the backing performers sounded on the level, and the drums sounded sharp for being in such a small space, so close to the rest of the band.

The show wound down with a pair of quieter tracks: the “Acid Rap” deep cut “Everything’s Good (Good Ass Outro)” and “We Go High.” The soothing, sentimental songs proved ideal closers, eventually fading out as Chance, one more time, thanked everyone for coming.