If there were any justice in the world, Swae Lee would be headlining world tours instead of opening for Post Malone.
While the Rae Sremmurd rapper/singer doesn't have a deep bench of songs, he has a one of a kind voice. His supple croon can bend and twist itself into surprising melodic shapes. He’s still young and hungry, so he didn't take the stage for granted. He bounded across Gila River Arena in Glendale catwalk last night like he had pure electricity running through his veins.
By the time Swae Lee took the stage, the venue was already packed. Lee opened with “Swang,” walking out onto a smoke-billowing catwalk that cut across the pit. The video screen behind him projected wavy aura lines and squiggles of energy on top of his body him like he was firing off Palpatine-style lighting blasts while rocking the mic.
He’d later drop the mic during “Hopeless Romantic” and quickly recovered, diving to grab it and a bouquet of roses that were tossed onstage during the song. Any doubts that Lee was singing 100 percent live were confirmed by the mic drop.
It didn’t seem like anybody in the crowd gave a shit about the lip-syncing. Who could blame them when an absolute banger like “Black Beatles” gets dropped on them? The track sounded titanic inside Gila River Arena. The beat was so cavernous and wide that you could fly a coke lord’s helicopter fleet through it.
After Lee’s set ended, a long black rectangle was lowered on top of the catwalk. Frank Ocean’s “Nikes” and cuts from 808s & Heartbreaks played over the speakers, casting a chill vibe on the room as the clock struck closer and closer to 10 p.m., and we waited for the Postman to arrive.
Flashing peach-colored lights, howling bursts of pyro, and smoke heralded the advent of Trashbag Jesus as the black rectangle slowly raised itself back overhead, revealing a bank of lights and lasers on its underside. Cell phones rushed in to capture Malone emerging from backstage as the beat dropped for “Hollywood’s Bleeding.”
Malone's star power is obvious. He walked onstage with supreme confidence. His every gesture and line was natural and unforced. For better or worse, the man was born to do this. And he's got some solid tunes. I'd have to be made of stone to deny the glory of "Sunflower." Unfortunately, the blunt truth is that a Post Malone show is just...boring.
Here's the thing about seeing Post Malone live: You can perfectly replicate the experience at home by dimming all the lights, putting on a playlist of his songs, cranking the volume to max, and maybe switch on a smoke machine if you feel extra fancy. Like Post, you can sing over the songs or just shut up and let the prerecorded voice do all the work (like Post sometimes did). Add some temporary tattoos on your face, throw on his Vice City Nudie Suit, and you have successfully re-enacted a Post Malone headlining set in its entirety. The only thing missing would be the pyro.
Whereas Lee had energy during his set, Malone prowled the stage at a comfortable, leisurely pace. He was talkative on the mic and eager to banter with the crowd between songs. But as soon as he started performed again, it had a perfunctory feel to it. For a guy who sings about being a rock star, Posty is far too mellow to be one. He dresses like "Paradise City," but his whole demeanor screams "Margaritaville."
Post seems like a genuinely nice guy, but not a particularly interesting one. Watching him perform, I couldn't help but wish it was Swae up there instead (or even better, throw Slim Jxmmi up there too and make it a full-on Rae Sremmurd party). After a while, Malone's songs bleed together, sad songs and hedonistic jams rubbing shoulders until they merge together into a sonic bipolar stew - something with a beat you can nod your head to while pensively downing a Solo cup.
When Swae came back out to do "Sunflower" with Malone towards the end of the night, the energy in the room spiked. They were a dream team. It was almost enough to make you hope for an entire album of Malone/Lee jams.
"Die For Me"
"I Fall Apart"
"Take What You Want"
Last Night: Post Malone with Swae Lee at Gila River Arena in Glendale.
The Crowd: Hypebeasts, fly girls, and a cavalcade of folks who look like they were just a few Faygos away from going to an ICP show.
Overheard: "I'm here to play y'all some shitty songs and get fucked up while doing it," said by Post Malone. It’s nice to see that Posty believes in truth in advertising.
Random Notebook Dump: Speaking of advertising — shout out to the giant "TIME FOR A BUD LIGHT BREAK" message flashing on the projection screen before Malone's set. Real considerate of the venue to remind folks to blow $10 on watery domestic swill before getting the audio version of it poured into their ear holes.
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