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Travis Scott brought the smoke and fire to Talking Stick Resort Arena on Tuesday night.EXPAND
Travis Scott brought the smoke and fire to Talking Stick Resort Arena on Tuesday night.
Jim Louvau

Concert Review: Travis Scott Lights Up Phoenix at ASTROWORLD Tour Stop

By the end of Travis Scott's show at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Tuesday night, I was speechless. I was rendered mute with awe. I had seen the Houston rapper do nothing short of resurrect the famed amusement park he frequented in his youth in his own image, giving rebirth to a new land of thrills and chills. AstroWorld is dead – long live ASTROWORLD.

With carnival games set up in front of the venue, along with a giant inflatable statue of Scott's head from the album cover, the show was more committed to its theme than any arena rap production I've ever seen. Case in point: The central setpiece was a working rollercoaster, split into two parts, an inverted loop and a longer track suspended above the floor that Scott – as well as a couple of lucky fans (who I assume paid through the nose for the privilege) – would strap into and ride. The cars couldn't have gone faster than 5 miles per hour, but still, seeing the rapper stand above the crowd at a death-defying height was a sight to behold.

Equally incredible were the rest of the visual effects: dazzling lasers, lights of every conceivable hue, and incredible visuals rear screen-projected onto a large, ocular screen. I could rattle off these videos like Stefan from Saturday Night Live. There were ruined statues of Texas oilmen, cyberpunk skyscrapers with lettering in Cyrillic and Japanese Katakana, and the reoccurring motif of a butterfly, which Scott would occasionally stand in front of to make it look like he had wings. Near the end of the show, a massive inflatable astronaut appeared.

Most impressive of all: At one point, as Scott began a tribute to Houston legend DJ Screw, two giant banner-like screens lowered from the arena ceiling. Neon roller-coasters and "Wish You Were Here" signs danced during "RIP SCREW," and "STOP TRYING TO BE GOD" featured footage of planet Earth with horses running, waves crashing ashore, a man making snow angels, a herd of sheep with a single black member.

It all added up to a spellbinding, extravagant display of maximalism. With this show, his tie-dye tour merch, and the woozy, cloudy songs performed, Scott has taken live rap to psychedelic new heights.

At one point, the crowd even became part of the show. Before diving into Tame Impala collab "SKELETONS," Scott asked the crowd to put up their cellphone lights. "Look how beautiful your city is," he declared.

Even more electric than the rides and songs was Scott's genuine admiration for his fans, who were more excited than possibly any concert crowd I've ever seen. Travis ran through the gauntlet of his new album, from harder tracks like "STARGAZING" and "NO BYSTANDERS" to slower cuts like "ASTROTHUNDER" (a personal favorite). But interspersed between them were nearly as many deep cuts, "Mamacita," "Don't Play," and "3500" among them.

As a result, for the duration of the night the general admission floor of the arena was a roiling mass of bodies, moshing and jumping along to every song, bouncing with hyperactive joy like the children on ASTROWORLD's album cover along with their favorite songs, new and old. Sometimes they were a little too energetic: I counted at least one instance of a shoe being thrown and nearly missing Scott's head, the rapper too engrossed in performance to even notice.

"I cannot wait to come back," he said before diving into "Goosebumps." "I fuckin' love y'all, I fuckin' love y'all, I fuckin' love y'all."

Just as energetic as Scott was one of his openers, Sheck Wes, the lanky Harlem rapper who delivered this year's smash rap banger "Mo Bamba." Indeed, when he dropped the track, the place went completely ballistic, but he also kept the energy sky high, jumping around the stage as if on a basketball court, throughout his all-too-short set, from "Chippi Chippi" to a beatless rendition of "Live Sheck Wes."

There was at least one misstep, and I'm not talking about when Scott nearly tripped over himself running to the back of the stage. While switching stages or making set changes, Scott would play a series of story-linked videos with a nonsensical story about memory, or siblings separated at birth, or something or other, that ended with the caption "ESCAPE THE SIMULATION." It seemed to be an attempt to blend surreal imagery with a narrative, but I couldn't tell what was going on.

But for the most part, the show was fire. Literal fire. I'm not just talking about the flamethrowers: At the very end, after mega-hit "SICKO MODE" marked the grand finale, the crew let off fireworks inside the arena. Just like in the real theme parks. A stratospheric sendoff for an out-of-this-world show.

Critic's Notebook

Last Night: Travis Scott's ASTROWORLD: Wish You Were Here Tour at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

The Crowd: A bunch of teens and kids in their early 20s in streetwear (guys) and skimpy outfits (girls) having the absolute time of their lives.

Overheard: The entire arena belting out "Oh, fuck, SHIT, BITCH!" at the climax of "Mo Bamba."

Random Notebook Dump: I missed most of the second opener, Atlanta rapper Gunna, and instead stood in a 30-minute line for merch. Worth it. 

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