By: Jonina Diele

One wouldn’t expect the words of hip hop wisdom to exit the mouth of an oversized, primary colored lion puppet, or for said puppet to deliver numerous choreographed dance segments. Yet, that’s precisely what Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring Word Tour delivered us: a lot a of color, a lot of puppets, and a lot of love.

The aforementioned lion goes by the name of Carlos, and he accompanied—and criticized—Chance throughout the set. “Don’t forget the message, big fella!” he reminded Chance when he shared songs that hinted at drugs or sex. Still, clouds of smoke lingered above the heads of a sold out audience as Chance led his gospel.

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Puppet friends of Carlos joined Chance on stage throughout the show, most notably an old friend who sat piano side with the rapper for a duet of “Same Drugs.” There was even one resemblant of Chance collaborator and Virginian artist D.R.A.M., playfully teal dreadlocks and all, singing “D.R.A.M. Sings Special” to a “sleeping” Chance. Eventually there was entire chorus of them, peppered with dancing plastic lions rooted at the front of the stage, singing along to the velvet melodies of Chance’s flow.

Puppets and all, it would be an understatement to call this show vibrant. Rainbow lights poured over the stage, floating through smoke, chalking the fans in sunset pinks and Crayola blues. Chance was another light himself, sitting right in the pocket of his passion, seemingly unaffected by the thin Colorado air he was quick to comment on near the start of his set.

Following his undoubtedly eccentric opener, Francis and the Lights, the proud Chicago native took the stage with the first single, “Angels”, of his latest mixtape, Coloring Book. Before diving in to the widely acclaimed project, he quickly departed to his earlier works—the essentials classics from 10 Day and Acid Rap, such as “Smoke Again,” “Favorite Song,” “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” and “Brain Cells.” Earlier, yes, but never old, and the crowd agreed—Chance himself exclaimed how well they knew the songs, rapping along in unison and jumping to the beat in chaos. These songs were a quick trip down memory lane, although it’s one that isn’t too far in the past—Chance was in Denver last November, at the same venue, for the Family Matters tour—yet it feels like a lifetime ago.

While the rapper has been on the come up since 2012, he became a true mainstream success this past year (the man has a personal relationship with Beyoncé for Christ’s sake). Consequentially, we receive a Chance that’s much more distant this time around. There’s less small talk with the crowd, no stories behind songs, less inspirational blabber. He didn’t need to walk off stage because he started crying during a song about his daughter, like last year. He didn’t belt a sweaty, raspy cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You” to a three-thirds full Fox Theatre like he did in 2013. We’re a world away from that Chance.

And while it’s always a little bittersweet to see a favorite artist creep into the mainstream, Chance is one that deserves the spotlight—and one that uses it for good, with his missions to buck the tired trends of the music industry and give back to his city. Even though it may be less personal, his stage presence is still undeniable, demanding the crowd to “shake this bitch” and gleefully juking through songs. There were still those sweet, syrupy moments too—like during his live rendition of “Blessings” that led the person behind me to exclaim “damn, this fool gives me goose bumps, dog!”

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“Blessings” came as one of those intimate, awe-inspiring, shivering moments that Chance has mastered. It was the point in the show that he really spat wisdom to the crowd, with chilling lines poets would feast on, such as “did you know that your blessing is not made of flesh? But it’s gunna come.”

Chance left us with an encore of “Summer Friends” complete with a well-choreographed dance duet with Francis (of Francis and the Lights) duped up in another Carlos-like ensemble. They both took a bow afterward, along with the Social Experiment ensemble—Donnie Trumpet, Peter Cottontale, and Nate Fox—appropriately timed at 11:11 P.M. Mainstream or not, one things for sure—Chance the Rapper doesn’t color inside the lines.