At the Garden, Travis Scott takes fans along on the ride of his life
Travis Scott is one of the hardest-working performers in music right now, but with the gloriously aerial ambitions of the chopped-and-screwed carnival that constitutes his latest (and largest-scale) tour, it’s safe to say the rapper’s cemented his status as one of its greatest showmen too.
Long before reaching arenas the size of TD Garden, which he sold out Sunday night, Scott’s live shows were disavowing restraint with near-religious fervor. On earlier tours, the Houston-bred rapper orchestrated seeing-red ragers so intense they sent fans tumbling over balconies and got him arrested (twice); his last set of dates found him riding around on an animatronic eagle, 40 feet in the air, screaming out bars with such enthralling power you almost believed the man was keeping the bird airborne himself.
But for the “Astroworld — Wish You Were Here” tour, Scott has gone even bigger, placing a carousel on one of two stages and bridging them with a roller coaster as he recast the shuttered Six Flags park of his youth as some hallucinogenic otherworld, home to however many off-kilter attractions he could construct and visit across the explosively keyed-up 85-minute set.
When he emerged beneath that carousel to open with the glimmering, ethereal “Stargazing,” Scott wasted little time before strapping into it for a go-round; pinballing across the stage once back on earth, he tore through a flurry of tracks, from deep cuts “Quintana” and “Mamacita” to more recent hits like “way back.” Controlled chaos is the order of the day at any Travis Scott show, and — whether punctuating the hooks on “No Bystanders” with pyrotechnic bombast or digging deep into his catalog to croon “Drugs You Should Try It” as lights rippled beneath his feet — La Flame, true to form, remained ferociously in his element.
Scott staged a few truly breathtaking moments to complement all the breathless ones, letting his now-iconic “3500” hook (“Only trill [expletive] I know”) reverberate weightily across the arena and later stripping away the swirling keys of “Stop Trying to Be God” to isolate his own vocals, achingly expressive beneath the trademark Auto-Tune. Ever the crowd-pleaser, he even squeezed in a Dropkick Murphys needle-drop, which the startled audience bellowed back at him after a moment’s hesitation. By the time Scott took his leave — after extending “Sicko Mode” into a dizzyingly climactic closer — he’d covered upward of 30 songs; there would be no encore, though anyone present to witness the rapper’s unbridled rage could have surmised that early on. Scott’s not the type to leave anything in reserve.
His restless energy mirrored the evening’s visuals. A towering video screen presented Scott’s more nightmarish concepts — crumbling freeways in an apocalyptic cityscape, a haunting scene of children separated by unidentified soldiers — and two giant props (an astronaut sporting Scott’s blue Air Jordan IVs, and the golden Travis head from the “Astroworld” cover) inflated in the show’s second half to hastily underline the three-ring-circus aesthetic.
None of these artifices could match the real, heart-in-mouth thrill of watching Scott perform “Antidote” astride that roller coaster. Two curtains were lowered when he first mounted the cart, and the words “Look Mom I Can Fly” appeared across them, a giddy encapsulation of Scott’s latest creative journey, from wide-eyed theme-park enthusiast to the impassioned architect of his very own.
At TD Garden, Dec. 2