Yes, the World Is Awful, but at Least We Have Chance the Rapper

UPDATE: Video emerged this morning providing a closer look at just what happened with Chance and a fan onstage. It appears that a fan rushed the stage and tried to hug Chance, who didn't look too happy about it. The video has been embedded below. 

Now more than ever we should treasure the unifying forces of this universe — the things that jump political, moral, and racial boundaries to yank us into one tight circle, where we can all, in unison, agree: This is fucking awesome.

Pizza, Hamilton, naps, hot showers, puppies, HBO's Sunday night programming — these are all things that fall into that category. 

It's tougher with music though. With an art form so subjective and personal, it takes someone truly special to get us all on the same page.

Enter Chance the Rapper, the 23-year-old Chicagoan whose fans span a spectrum deeper than the Grand Canyon — from President Obama and President Beyoncé to the young, sold-out crowd jumping up and down in delirium at the Fillmore Miami Beach. 

Chance started the show like he was ripping off a Band-Aid. The moment the curtain peeled back, he had already traveled the length of the stage twice, convulsing and dancing like he was trying to purge some unwanted spirit from within himself. Calling it energetic is a sad understatement. What Chance has is so much more than just energy. Chance performs like he's just been freed from a cage. Chance performs like an iPhone that's been charging for 73 years. 
He fought through "Angels" and then leaped right into "Blessings," and before the bathrooms could clear out, the crowd had broken a sweat. 

Chance, possibly a little steamy as well, pulled off his denim jacket and got more comfortable in a plain white T-shirt. The music stopped, and he finally took a moment.

"I just realized that I did it again," he said, somehow not out of breath at all. "I got too excited. I've done, like, four or five songs because I get really excited when I get to Miami." Chance took a deep breath and then introduced himself. 

"Hi, my name is Chance the Rapper."

And the crowd roared. There is something about Chance the Rapper — even just hearing him say his own name — that elicits a warm feeling from deep inside your stomach. He's so easy to root for. His spirit of positivity shines so bright — and in direct opposition to the incredible violence of his hometown streets of Chicago's South Side. His intentions are so clear, which is a rarity not only in the music industry but in the world.

And last night, those intentions were to share his music — and soul — with Miami. That's just what he did, with the help of a cast of puppets, for the next hour. Chance's live show was a theatrical journey through his own subconscious — which was often narrated by a massive puppet lion named Carlos.

It was fun and silly but also powerfully nostalgic and personal in a way most of the millennial crowd could surely relate to. These goofy creatures talked us through much of our childhood. Now, older but not any less scared, we watched as they counseled Chance on love, success, and art. 

It helped to build a feeling of community few concerts can achieve — until one sad moment snapped that momentum in half. Deep into the third act of the show, it appeared there was some sort of commotion near the front of the room. A fan jumped up onstage and tried to hug Chance, who was blindsided by the assault. Chance and his band quickly walked off as the lights and music cut out. The crowd was left shrugging in their seats for about five minutes, wondering if this was part of the show — maybe some metaphor for the thin line between fan and artist.    It wasn't. And we waited a few more minutes. 

"Who would assassinate Chance the Rapper?" someone in the crowd asked out loud. 

And then, as hope was draining from the Fillmore, we heard a tiny whoop from backstage, Chance's way of letting us know the show would go on. He emerged, though he looked shaken and unsure — hesitant for the first time all night. 

He thanked us and told us this had been the best show of his tour. Then, staring at the ground, he said, "It's kind of hard to jump back into the narrative thing, so I think I'm just going to finish with my last couple of songs."

It felt like we were watching our best friend's ice cream cone melt. There was a helpless feeling as Chance moseyed into his last few songs bravely. You wanted to run onstage and give him a hug, but — well, we all saw how that just turned out.

So the crowd did its best to sing along and build Chance back up. It worked, and by the time he reached "Blessings (Reprise)," Chance was back, swinging his arms like he was trying to fight off a thousand ghosts. His voice seemed to waver in a register it hadn't reached all night. 

"The people's champ must be everything the people can't."

He sung that line with force. He sung that line for God and his mom and Chicago and President Obama. It's a fact he's learning more and more the larger his flame grows: The bigger it gets, the harder it is to control.
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Ryan Pfeffer is a contributor and former Miami New Times music editor. After earning a BS from Florida State University, Ryan joined the New Times staff in November 2013 as a web editor.
Contact: Ryan Pfeffer