You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Concert Review: Tyler, the Creator Electrifies With Newly Transformed Persona

There came a point, naturally for most any longtime fan, of utter and somewhat awe-inspiring incredulity during Tyler, the Creator’s concert this past Thursday night at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.

For some, it could have come the moment he appeared on stage, casually walking out in shades, a pink and red suit, and a blonde Anna Wintour-bob wig. Stock-still in front of a shimmery silver curtain, he posed under the roar of a packed house and the droning opening note of “Igor Theme,” before eventually exploding in motion and setting the house off.

In 2019, this is Tyler, the Creator: an unironic full-on character — not played for laughs, but an alter ego from “IGOR,” his latest album — jumping, contorting, wailing for a boy who has driven him love-crazy, a boy, he sings, that is as dangerous as a gun.

On Thursday night, the 28-year-old rapper’s thoroughly electrifying show was a striking display of one of music’s most stunning artistic transformations in recent memory. The version of Tyler, the Creator that burst onto the scene as a teen early on in the decade — a perpetually mischievous leader of the rap collective, Odd Future, that would create a new paradigm for a generation of hip-hop — felt at times like an improbable, deceptive memory. For the majority of the show, this newer iteration of Tyler took fans instead through the journey of the doomed, if sonically lush, love story that is “IGOR.”

The record, released in May, is the stellar follow-up to his opus “Flower Boy,” which in the summer of 2017 signaled a sudden and wholly unexpected shift for the rapper. Gone, at least in part, was his youthful bombast, replaced instead by a shimmering, daydreaming revelation of vulnerability and of queerness.

The more recent “IGOR” offered a sharp-edged concept album on unrequited love, largely shedding raps for a gorgeously polished, instrumentally focused record that Tyler produced on his own. It was his most cohesive project yet and confirmation of an artist operating on new creative tiers.

This much was evident in the masterfully calibrated experience of Thursday night’s show. Among multiple backdrops shifted, he orchestrated tension with delightfully calculated transitions — literally grunting slowly into a beat drop for “New Magic Wand” and teasing “Earfquake” with a gorgeous piano rendition before letting the hit song itself take over an intensely pulsating crowd. At the Bill Graham, every attendee knew the words throughout the night.

The full night was wonderfully diverse, including sterling opening acts in rapper GoldLink and singer Blood Orange, who also brought out Toro y Moi for a cameo. But the night was undoubtedly Tyler’s.

At times gliding and grooving and at others kicking and screaming, Tyler was explosive and mesmerizing in character. Notably, he virtually never addressed the crowd, even in between songs, during the first half of the show as he focused on a tour through “IGOR”: it was a carefully orchestrated immersion into the world of his latest record.

It wasn’t until he began turning toward his early-career songs that Tyler spoke to the crowd. “Oh, y’all like that old s—-, huh? You stupid b—-,” he said, jabbing wryly at his audience after a performance of “Yonkers,” his very first, nearly decade-old breakout hit that was chock-full of willfully offensive lyrics. Old Tyler, it seems, dies hard.

The “IGOR” experience, though, provided the most breathtaking parts of the night. Ignorant of the audience and performing as if possessed on a largely spare stage, Tyler commanded the crowd effortlessly as a veritable, if unlikely, superstar in a blonde bob. In the latter portions of the show’s stage setup, a video of Tyler’s performance was projected onto intersecting layers of shredded curtains, intentionally creating the intriguing effect of a cut-up vision of Tyler: a version of the monster of “IGOR,” a reflection of a shape-shifting figure.

The show wound down with “See You Again” from “Flower Boy,” as Tyler addressed the crowd in the song’s closing moments before stepping onto an elevated platform to sing and sway into an exit with “Are We Still Friends?,” the closer from “IGOR.”

“San Francisco, I want to thank you for a great show and s—,” he said, while thanking Goldlink and Blood Orange. “Make some noise for y’all selves. I don’t need y’all to make noise for me. I know I’m tight as f—.”

Concert Review: Tyler, the Creator Electrifies With Newly Transformed Persona

More Music

  • Kirby Dick Amy Ziering

    'On The Record,' Russell Simmons #MeToo Doc, Charts Course to Sundance After Oprah Exit

    Update: A spokesperson for Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering says the filmmaking team will participate in print and broadcast interviews at the Sundance film festival. The accusers featured in the film are weighing press options at this time. Earlier, a spokesperson for the film “On The Record” confirmed to Variety that only photo calls would [...]

  • Deborah Dugan

    Reports of Ousted Grammy Chief Demanding $22 Million Are 'Outrageous,' Sources Say

    UPDATED: As the war of words between the Recording Academy and ousted president/CEO Deborah Dugan continues to escalate, interim boss Harvey Mason Jr. today issued a statement to the Academy’s membership about Dugan’s alleged misconduct and warned about “leaks and misinformation.” The letter claims that Dugan’s attorney Bryan Freedman sought “millions of dollars” for his [...]

  • Mac Miller, Ariana GrandeAriana Grande in

    Mac Miller Producer 'Believes' That's Ariana Grande's Voice on New Album

    Since Mac Miller’s posthumous album, “Circles,” came out Friday, many fans have been convinced they heard Ariana Grande’s voice on the track “I Can See.” The late rapper’s reps responded to queries with a “no comment.” Now, his ex-girlfriend’s vocal cameo has been confirmed — or equivocally confirmed, at least — by the record’s producer, [...]

  • Mura Masa’s 'R.Y.C.': Album Review

    Mura Masa’s 'R.Y.C.': Album Review

    With his 2017 self-titled debut album, Mura Masa — a.k.a. 23-year-old Channel Islands spawn Alex Crossan — was nominated for two Grammys, including Best Dance Album, and later won one for his remix of Haim’s “Walking Away.” Guests on the album ranged from A$AP Rocky and Charli XCX to Blur/Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn and Desiigner. [...]

  • Recording Academy President/CEO Deborah Dugan participates

    Executive Assistant Preparing Lawsuit Against Ousted Grammy Chief

    In the latest twist in the increasingly bitter exit of Deborah Dugan from the Recording Academy after just five months, the ousted president/CEO is about to face a lawsuit from her former assistant, Claudine Little, who has retained former Harvey Weinstein/ Charlie Walk attorney Patty Glaser to represent her, two sources tell Variety. The news was [...]

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm

    'Curb Your Enthusiasm' Music: How the Italian Tuba March Found Its Way to Larry David

    When “Curb Your Enthusiasm” returns for its much-anticipated 10th season it does so with it a musical theme that’s a prime example of recognizable sonic branding and has become synonymous with comedy in our complicated times: “Frolic” by composer Luciano Michelini. But surprisingly, this comic march for tuba, mandolin and piano wasn’t specifically written for [...]

  • Kacey Musgraves, from left, Reba McEntire,

    How a Twitter Joke About Women on Country Radio Reignited a Firestorm (Column)

    Do you remember the classic Bee Gees song that goes, “I started a joke… that started the whole world crying”? (It’s okay if you don’t.) That’s how I felt this week after realizing that a sarcastic tweet I’d typed out in a half-minute at a stoplight led to a social media firestorm, then a tempest of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content