Travis Scott Proves He's Rap's Ultimate Rock Star at His Astroworld Concert in NYC
Five years ago, on the eve of his Owl Pharaoh release, Travis Scott stood in an Atlanta studio and talked to a room full of writers about a dream still fresh in his mind. “I had a dream and for some reason, the music came out way better than what was in my dream,” he said. “But I had a dream... I ran away from home to try and make it in this shit and for some reason it was in the 1800s or some shit.”
Scott nurtured this vivid imagination long before he was moved to name his third LP, Astroworld, after a Houston-area amusement park that doesn’t even exist anymore. It makes complete sense when you consider how much creative thought goes into visualizing a single rollercoaster track to bring out on tour and actually bringing a rollercoaster on tour.
Initially, the Astroworld creator was only slated to perform one night of his Wish You Were Here Tour at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, but when tickets sold out almost immediately back in August, the team added a second evening. That one sold out too. On Wednesday night (Nov. 28), Scott -- along with openers Trippie Redd, Gunna and Sheck Wes -- gave their fans exactly what they were looking for: high-octane performances that were as equally thrilling as the night before.
Before the show, concertgoers milling into the arena for Scott’s final night in town were grouped up at the entrance, while others were heading in the opposite direction, back to the subway -- clearly having missed out on copping last minute tickets, but still delighted with their merch bags whipping in the wind. Inside the venue, weed smoke wafted through the concession area and down the escalators.
Kicking off his headlining set, Scott bounced between the corners of the stage, dipping and diving between projects, touching on tracks like “way back” and “biebs in the trap” from Astroworld’s 2016 predecessor Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. The rapper's whole setlist is a quiet stunt in a sense: His songs have always had a distinct trap sensibility, but it’s watching Scott bring these songs to life that puts him in his own category. Rappers don’t typically scream the the tail-end of bars. Rappers don’t rage. Right?
Psychedelic CGI visuals flashed across the screens on the other end of the arena, and Scott demanded that the fans on the floor open up the mosh pit. At one point, there were some young men pushing towards the front of the stage so they could jump up and leap off. Security pushed them back, to which the rapper took offense. “Aye, security,” he scolded. “We not doing that though...” One kid finally made it up to the stage and jumped into the waiting arms of the people in the pit, at the climax of Scott's impromptu a cappella performance of the hook to his Rodeo single "3500." These aren’t the type of fans that overstep boundaries, they just wanted to get loose.
In fact, later on in the evening, Scott boarded his rollercoaster with a grinning Kylie Jenner perched beside him. He got into “CAN’T SAY” and “Antidote” and accidentally dropped his hat into the crowd. The cart made more several round-trips back and forth across the venue, from platform-to-platform, and the mob ran directly underneath, following with their faces raised. By the time Travis made it back to the stage, someone had tossed his hat back up to him. No one fought for it.
In the stands, the energy was still there, although a bit more tame. One couple slow danced to “through the late night.” The floor shuddered under the weight of entire sections jumping to “NO BYSTANDERS.” The screen above lowered as Scott burned through “R.I.P. Screw” and custom neon emojis appeared: the outline of Texas, a cactus, a circus tent and so on. There was also a panoramic shot of the Houston skyline as Scott performed “HOUSTONFORNICATION.”
When Scott and Gunna got into “YOSEMITE,” a giant astronaut had inflated behind them. Scott started “Goosebumps” and the crowd surged with new energy. Kendrick Lamar’s verse began, “I wanna press my like, yeah, I wanna wanna press my...” and it sounded like the track, until the Compton MC actually appeared center stage, wearing all black. The Garden exploded, vibrating from underneath and finally erupted in a flood of excited shrieks.
To call Travis Scott a rock star is a somewhat ham-fisted statement at this point. But that being said, the kid from Missouri City, a 40-minute drive from Houston’s center, is exactly what and who he wants to be -- and everyone’s invited to the amusement park on stage and in his head with the Wish You Were Here Tour.