The Bomb Factory, Dallas
Friday, February 19, 2016
The polarization of Kid Cudi these days inspires curiosity. Yes, his latest albums have veered sharply from the sonics of his highly praised early material, but this behavior, depending on how well you know his discography, is largely predictable. On Friday night, he played to a sold-out crowd at The Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum, where he artfully performed his more recent '90s-influenced grunge rock alongside the beloved early material from his debut and sophomore albums.
On his debut mixtape, A Kid Named Cudi, he spent 51 minutes detailing his depressive, loner behavior and, most important, addressing his indifference toward fitting in and appeasing critics. Despite critics' enthusiasm for ridiculing him, Cudi's cult-like fanbase (developed over the last eight years) hasn’t subsided.
From that first mixtape to his latest release, Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven, released last December, it’s evident that Cudi lives in his own chaotic head, and that carried through to his busy, jarring stage setup. It featured large, real trees strewn with an array of lights and several analog televisions playing random loops of cartoons such as Beavis and Butthead.
At the beginning of the nearly two-hour set, which started on time at a surprisingly early 8:30, it seemed that Cudi was going to stay in his comfort zone as he worked through tracks like “Reforev,” “Soundtrack 2 My Life,” “Ghost” and some of his newer material. It’s almost fitting that Cudi didn’t acknowledge the crowd early on because one of the greatest qualities of his catalog, no matter the time period or genre, is that his music brings listeners into his world. That feeling was recreated during the performance.
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His abstaining from interacting with the crowd in the beginning was totally excusable, too, as he put together a seamless, theatrical and energetic performance. The songs mixed together on the setlist were fluid and, other than being a bit flat at times, his voice was strong and overpowered the backing tracks and live drummer who accompanied him on stage. The eight-year music veteran displayed an earnest star quality, proving that reports of the demise of his music career have been greatly exaggerated.
Toward the latter half of the show, after an intermission and a guest performance by Chip Tha Ripper on “Hyyerr,” Cudi acknowledged the crowd, but not in the insincere, flattering way touring artists typically do. The acknowledgement felt impromptu, as he would stop songs midway to announce that he loved the energy in the room. After doing this a couple times, he went on to offer encouraging words of advice to his fans. The acknowledgement rounded out a strong performance and put a bow on a night that lived up to the tour’s Especial name, and also excused the show's months-long delay due to production and personal issues, according to Cudi.
As he closed out the show with some of his most celebrated tracks, such as “Pursuit of Happiness” and an abbreviated electronic remix of “Day ’N’ Nite,” it was clear that Cudi is not so far removed from his art that he couldn’t eventually come back with a hip-hop album that rivals the quality of Man on the Moon or Man on the Moon, Vol II.
Instead, he’s chosen to explore and push boundaries with his latest work, which may bother some because it’s an untraditional route. But the fans who showed up for this show proved that he still has plenty of room and time to express himself as he sees fit. Even if his shows didn’t continue to sell out, he’d continue to make music at his own discretion. That’s what he’s always done.