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Two years to the month after his Astroworld festival ended in tragedy, Houston rapper Travis Scott returned to Texas for a noisy, fire-breathing rap concert Tuesday night. It was a fine display of youthful raging under bright lights — but don’t expect closure if you’re catching him night 2.
His Moody Center stop was only the second Texas performance by Scott since the incident; one for which he remains a defendant in hundreds of lawsuits. Ten concert attendees died at Astroworld in November 2021 from compressive asphyxiation amid a crowd rush. Scott’s been criticized for overseeing poor show logistics and for egging-on gatecrashers via social media.
The tragedy was not worked into his onstage banter.
“Thank you so much for a beautiful night,” he told fans before the set-closing “Telekinesis.” It was the most vulnerable Scott allowed himself to be while up on his labyrinth temple stage.
Beforehand, fans did that modern rap concert thing where they bobbed up and down while filming shaky phone videos with an outstretched arm. Resembling Central American pyramid ruins, the Circus Maximus tour’s jungle-themed stage even piped-in preshow cricket noises. Throughout the show, Scott invited three groups of fans from the crowd to ride in the setup’s floating, Olmec stone statue-esque head. It shot lasers out of its eyes and hovered above the general admission patrons.
Scott has toured with regularity worldwide since the Astroworld incident. (Miami, Tel Aviv, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, São Paulo — all dating to March 2022.) In between this steady pipeline, he recorded the recent “Utopia,” a back-to-the-well summer blockbuster of an album that leans on the 32-year-old’s signature production tricks from his past decade in the spotlight: moshpit-made anthems built around staccato bursts of phonetic language (“Fein”); lots of Auto-Tune; nonstop cameos from the most distinct and famous voices in hip-hop because Scott is not a writer who carries records with the traditional three, 16-bar verses per song; cavernous beats that rattle iPhones off their cords and disconnect your Apple CarPlay.
The Moody show was billed as sold out, but the resale market for tickets offered them as low as $25 pre-show late Tuesday. I think that’s because he apparently planned the tour as he constructed the album and filmed its accompanying documentary… and forgot to make “Utopia” meaningful. It’s a “Transformers” movie of an album, technologically grandiose but lacking in clarity and charisma from its narrator; this reporter fervently listened upon its July 28 release and forgot entirely about it within days.
But like how everyone you made small talk with at the Austin City Limits Music Festival last month said they came out for the “vibes” instead of a particular performer, Scott Nation’s Gen-Z denizens also signed up to swim in a cauldron of abrasive, one-note energy strewn across 26 interwoven songs, during a 90-minute arena spectacle.
For them, it was nostalgic. Scott is massively influential, the type of artist whose lyrics caption innumerable Instagram posts. A recent TikTok trend put the average social media user at the center and showed photos of themselves in 2018, when the breakout album “Astroworld” turned Scott into an ACL Fest headliner, and then compared it to their 2023 selves. (The 2018 person you see is a teenager with braces who made suspicious fashion decisions and the 2023 person has made a significant glow-up, is the point of the trend.)
“It means so much,” Scott said in cargo shorts, the “Alien 3” meets Tupac’s “California Love” video meets “Mad Max” vibes in full effect amid crowing lyrics about female twins and dizzyingly fun lights. Soon after “Highest In the Room,” a young man was redirected by an usher away from the aisle, where he’d been losing his mind dancing.
“It's 5 a.m. and I'm drunk right now,” patrons sang on “I Know.” That’s where the rapper’s power lies: His vibes uniquely capture a young, American workforce’s feelings of fatalistic malaise. And when Scott deployed legacy jams “Sicko Mode” and “Goosebumps” as closing arguments, it made everyone want to ditch their UberEats gig and move to Venezuela.
From USA Today in 2022: A year after Travis Scott's Astroworld disaster left 10 dead, are crowded concerts any safer?
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Review: Travis Scott's brings 'Utopia' tour to Austin's Moody Center