Before I even entered the venue, I overheard a security guard for Express Live! talking about the upcoming show, “they will not be playing for long tonight, less than an hour hopefully”. Fast forward to what seemed like the 4th song he played, Savage engaged the crowd with a “20-1” chant, followed by a shout out to Columbus. Just as quickly as he came he was gone living up to the low energy, lackluster performance reputation that he has gained over the past year.
Issa Let Down
Touring based on his newest album “Issa”, Savage opened the show with his pre-Savage Mode tracks, with the highlight being Red Opps. After moving through Red Opps, Savage got into the songs that arguably made his career, X and Savage Mode. These tracks are two of my favorite of his, and I was disappointed in the lackluster performance. After spending the earlier hours of the night watching local artists like Jay Esquire (my favorite performance of the night) and larger acts like Ayo & Teo bring the energy and excitement that a live experience deserves, the lack of spirit was deflating. I still held out hope, as most artists are more excited to play their new music than old, and I knew ISSA songs were on deck.
Expecting hits like Close My Eyes, FaceTime, and Thug Life, we got an average performance of Famous, with Savage wrapping up his show with his newest hit and biggest song to date, Bank Account. Finally acknowledging the crowd and city he was in, I expected a couple follow-up songs, however, his statement of love for Columbus was also his farewell. His DJ unplugged his laptop and the lights were on before 21 even got off the stage.
There Were Some Treats and 21 Savage Has Bars
I will say that a common misconception about an artist like 21 Savage is that they do not have the lyrical prowess to compete with their peers and are more based off the hype of the internet, however, Savage was able to highlight his lyrics by ending most of his songs with an acapella verse. One of my fears entering a show like this is that the strategy of playing 2/3 of every hit song will be employed. Not only does this strategy kill the energy of a show, it does not let fans of the songs hear some of their favorite verses. I was happy to see that Savage not only played the full version of his hits, but also was able to highlight some of the fan favorite lyrics (and he did not miss a beat).
The Bottom Line
While most people would say “what did you expect”, I always hold out hope that artists with a bad performer label will prove their haters wrong and give Columbus a show we deserve. While Savage was not totally inept, he was average and unmemorable and needs to give his songs the proper energy they deserve. Hey, I guess I get to add his name to my concert list at least.
Written by Chris Hohlbein