If you’re a teacher or an administrator at a Charlotte-area high school and you’re wondering why so many kids were having trouble staying awake in class on Thursday, there’s a simple explanation: Post Malone was in town on Wednesday night.
The bearded, man-bunned, face-tattooed 22-year-old — a guy virtually no one had heard of just three years ago — is now easily the most successful of the artists that fall into the white-rapper category. But much more impressively, he may well be the most-loved mainstream music artist on the planet among young people.
Got a teenager? Chances are, you’ve got a Post Malone fan.
Tickets for the PNC Music Pavilion show sold out not long after they went on sale in February, and a couple days out from his arrival even the cheap seats (i.e. lawn tickets) were commanding as much as $150 on the secondary market. I know teens who begged for tickets to this show, I know teens who borrowed, and there are one or two I suspect may have stolen something in order to be there.
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I suppose they all got their money’s worth. Granted, those with lawn tickets who showed up in time to see openers like Paris, SOB X BRE and 21 Savage may have gotten a little more than they bargained for in the form of an early-evening drenching courtesy of Mother Nature. But if you came hoping to hear all of Post Malone’s hits performed reasonably well in a live setting, you didn’t leave disappointed.
Wearing an oversized “Posty Co.” tee and baggy camo-ish pants splotched with mustard-yellow, gray and black, Post Malone (née Austin Richard Post) somehow managed to rip through 17 songs in a headlining set that lasted just under an hour and 15 minutes.
He only has two albums in his repertoire to work with — 2016’s “Stoney” and 2018’s “Beerbongs & Bentleys” — but that actually makes things easy: He basically played everything he’s got.
And, the bigger the hit, the more eardrum-splitting the bass. During cuts like “Better Now,” “Candy Paint” and “Psycho,” the low-frequency output from the speakers made a couple of my fillings come loose; during the chorus on “Paranoid,” the bass line was so ferocious that it made the vocals sound like Chris Farley’s when he bellowed “Luuuuuke, I am your faaaather” through a fan in “Tommy Boy” (that, by the way, is a reference none of the teens who went to this show will get).
Without a live band or backup dancers on stage (Post Malone relies on a DJ for the sound track), it’s totally up to him to keep folks’ attention. And visually, there’s not much going on here beyond a couple of props that made the stage look vaguely like a highway construction zone and fog machines that seemed to be perpetually turned up to 11.
When Post Malone did get to bring his personality to the fore, he shunned the braggadocio that’s typical of his peers.
This is seen first in the painfully short acoustic portion of the show (he performed knockout renditions of surprisingly heartfelt non-rap songs like “Feelin’ Whitney” and “Stay” before moving quickly back to more-superficial stuff).
But also surprising is his willingness to be self-deprecating.
“I’m too fat and drunk to be doing this,” he said before launching into “No Option.” Then, as he set up “Big Lie,” he teed up another goof on his appearance: Referring vaguely to people he considers posers on Instagram, Post Malone said, “He’ll post a picture of his girlfriend and say, ‘Check out my girlfriend. Isn’t she the baddest b----?’ ... and (I’ll think to myself) ‘I seen your girlfriend, and she looks like Post Malone.’ ”
His fans roared at that joke. Then they screamed — shrieked might be more like it, or whatever word describes teens sounding like they’re literally about to die of excitement — for his most iconic hit, “rockstar,” which he said “is about breakin’ s---.’ ”
Post Malone brusquely yelled his way through what’s typically a much more chill track; and curiously, 21 Savage didn’t come back out to rap on the song he helped make famous. Instead, the headliner spiced up “rockstar” at the end by taking the acoustic instrument he’d played so gently a few minutes prior and violently smashing it into the ground three times, as the song faded into a fuzz of electric guitars and a cloud of thick smoke.
Then he closed the show with a pair of his “classic” (i.e. two-year-old) megahits: “White Iverson” and “Congratulations,” both from his first album.
In his defense of the latter, or against those who might have at one point called him a one-hit wonder, he said, “I see those same motherf------ who told me I wouldn’t make it almost every day, and they always say, ‘Congratu-f---ing-lations, man,’ ” He pauses, then says, “So I guess this is Postie’s way of telling y’all to do whatever the f--- you want.”
For the record, I saw a fair amount of underage drinking going on on Wednesday night, plus some marijuana use, plus a Mad Max mentality in the parking lot afterwards, so I’d say his fans are heeding that advice.
Oh, one more item of note: If you were there Wednesday night, you might have noticed a rowdy group of guys hanging out in a pen on the left side of the stage who looked like they’d aged out of high school a decade ago. That crew belonged to 28-year-old NASCAR star Austin Dillon, the reigning Daytona 500 champ and defending Coca-Cola 600 champ.
There are, by the way, distinct advantages to having Dillon’s connections and being well beyond the teen years. Not only did he have the best seat in the house, but even better, he didn’t have to be at school first thing Thursday morning.
Post Malone’s setlist
1. “Too Young”
2. “Better Now”
3. “Takin’ Shots”
4. “No Option”
5. “Big Lie”
6. “Deja Vu”
8. “Candy Paint”
10. “I Fall Apart”
11. “Up There”
12. “Feelin’ Whitney”
14. “Go Flex”
16. “White Iverson”