With Tyga, Kid Ink, Omarion, Tenaya Taylor and Fetty Wap
Gexa Energy Pavilion, Dallas
Thursday, September 10, 2015
Six years after the fact, the mention of Chris Brown's name still conjures up memories of his 2009 assault of then-girlfriend, pop superstar Rihanna. The memory might seem a little more distant if, since that night, Brown hadn't continued to demonstrate aggressive and violent behavior. He's faced allegations of a brawl with Drake at a night club, a backstage tantrum after an interview with Good Morning America's Robin Roberts, a physical confrontation with Frank Ocean and another fight over a photo with two men outside of a hotel. And yet, despite all those transgressions, Brown's music career continues to flourish.
Brown is a polarizing entertainer, but those who love him genuinely love him. In front of a near sell-out crowd at Gexa Energy Pavilion on Thursday night, his adoring fans' devotion was obvious from the first beat of Brown's 2005 debut single "Run It," which opened his headlining set. Performing in front of a large, impressive stage of video monitors that projected various images of graffitied walls and stereo components, Brown, his band and a crew of dancers sharply and quickly ran through a medley of hit singles such as "(Yo) Excuse Me Miss," "Poppin'" and "Deuces." For an artist who is only 26, it's almost jarring to recount the number of hits Brown has under his belt already.
We're used to ambitious, athletic choreography in Brown's music videos and award show performances, but on this night his moves were heavily toned down. His routine amounted to a lot of impressive pop-locking and choreographed steps with his backup dancers. That's not to say his hip gyrations didn't trigger a response from his mostly female audience as he covered a number of today's favorite dances from the "Nae Nae" to "Hit the Quan." Outside those offerings, Brown remained rather distant from his audience, and the disconnect was hard to ignore. There was little to no banter with the crowd — he hardly engaged them. As a possible remedy to the situation, Brown presented the Dallas crowd with a few surprises.
Toward the end of the set Brown brought out fellow hit-maker French Montana, who performed the crowd-pumping bangers "Ocho Cinco," "Pop That" and the pair's collaboration, "Moses." Brown then rounded out the surprise guest list by also bringing out Tyga, Fetty Wap and, eventually, the entire lineup of opening artists. Outside of the opening medley Brown did at the start of his set, this sequence of artists joining him on stage was the climax of the night.
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The headliner's support of Fetty Wap was the real highlight of the show, though. In terms of chart-topping and album sales, Fetty Wap was the low man on the totem pole Thursday night, and that's on a lineup that also included Kid Ink, Omarion and Teyana Taylor. But other than maybe Young Thug, Wap has been the Prince of 2015 and is poised to be a superstar in his own right. He'll have a chance to catch up sales-wise when his self-titled debut album releases on September 25.
As one of multiple opening acts, the New Jersey rapper only had a 15-minute set to work with, but in that time he damn near stole the show. More so than Omarion and Kid Ink, Wap had the entire Gexa crowd on its feet and swaying to his anthems "Trap Queen" and "My Way," along with newer tracks. While the rest of the artists were seasoned veterans used to playing stadiums and amphitheaters, it was charming and refreshing to see a smile on Fetty Wap's face as he rapped and sang his tracks.
That apparent genuine enjoyment of performing is precisely what Chris Brown's set lacked. Although he's not much of a dancer, Wap bounced around the stage, encouraging the crowd to move with him. His charisma was infectious and, more important, it was a guilt-free performance for the audience.