Chance the Rapper’s concert at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland on Wednesday provided a capacity audience of more than 2,000 with a religious experience.
Not only did the Chicago hip-hop artist’s soul-cleansing outing possess the sort of life-affirming excitement generated by a rarefied performance, much of the 85-minute show was overtly dedicated to spiritual salvation.
The 23-year-old born Chancelor Bennett has quickly evolved from a drug-obsessed miscreant into a jubilant optimist. A disruptive paradigm, he refuses to work with record labels and freely gives away his recordings including his crucial new “Coloring Book” album.
Hundreds of fans wore Chance the Rapper-brand apparel at his second sold-out show at the venue in less than a year, a reflection of the new business model perfected by Bennett.
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Supplemented by the liberal use of backing tracks, Bennett and a three-piece band mixed secular and sacred music. Bennett noted that “I speak to God in public” on the reprise of “Blessings,” a sanctified rap that contains profanity. Live footage was embedded into a video backdrop depicting a church. The message was clear as Bennett asked, “Did you know that your blessing is not at this show, but it’s coming?”
As a virtual angel ascended during the introduction of “How Great,” 14 Muppet-like creatures acted as a gospel choir as they mimed singing “How great is our God.”
Even the most tipsy of Bennett’s fans couldn’t mistake the concert for a showing of the hit musical “Hamilton,” but the event possessed a theatrical narrative. A oversize lion named Carlos acted as Bennett’s moral compass, reminding him not to “forget the message” as he unearthed repressed memories and pondered his future. In the most surreal portion of the concert, Bennett sat next to a female puppet as he crooned the affecting ballad “Same Drugs.”
Bennett offered a less consecrated form of worship during a reworking of his verse from his mentor Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam,” a riveting rap in which he referenced the gospel standard “This Little Light of Mine.”
While Bennett shone like the sun on Wednesday, a few dark clouds appeared before the show. The venue’s doors opened 90 minutes late and the performance by the opening act Francis and the Lights began 75 minutes behind schedule.
The delay required fans to ponder Bennett’s churchly brilliance in the wee hours of the morning as they made their way home.