The crowd was thick, but the bar lines were empty as Bryson Tiller’s “Set It Off” tour – with openers H.E.R. and Metro Boomin– touched down in Austin at the Statesman Skyline Theater at the Long Center in Austin, TX on August 9, 2017. The outside lawn of the Long Center overflowed with hundreds of screaming pre-drinking age fans (and a few confused parents).
Kicking off the show was one of the hottest (and most mysterious) newcomers in the R&B world, H.E.R.. Since she dropped her soulful debut “Vol. 1” last year, she’s made it a point to keep her face hidden in all her press and public appearances. She makes this conscious effort to keep her not-so-well-kept secret identity from getting in the way of the music. I half expected her to pull a SIA-esque move and perform with her back turned to the crowd, but other than the ever-present shades, she was extremely open and engaging with the crowd. She effortlessly moved between songs from her two recent EP’s and a few potent covers, including one from Alicia Keys and a jaw-dropping version of Kendrick Lamar‘s “LOVE” that fit much better in her set than as the cliché crossover joint on his own “DAMN.”
Next, the familiar tag line came over the speakers, “If young metro don’t trust ya ima shoot ya…..”. The go-to producer for some of rap’s biggest names came out swinging as he powered through an impressive array of chart topping hits that he provided the foundation for – including the two competing top songs of the summer, Migos‘ “Bad & Boujee” and Future‘s “Mask Off”. The man whose trust may be the deciding factor on whether or not you become the victim of gun violence is owning 2017, and enjoying that shit. To cap off his set, he brought out “Houston’s favorite asshole”, Trae the Truth. Trae seems to have some kind of ongoing bet with Bun-b to see who can make more cameo appearances on other rappers’ sets when they come to Texas to give them the lone star co-sign.
At this point you could cut the anticipation with a knife. The kids were getting restless. They wanted to see Bryson Tiller. An older security guard who was tasked with keeping the cheap ticket holders out of the VIP area closer to the stage took his eye off the post for a split second and was quickly overtaken by hundreds of rabid fans who rushed past the barricade to get a better spot on the lawn. Who was gonna stop them?
As soon as the Louisville native took the stage it was clear why he’s on the verge of super stardom. From the first song he had the crowd eating out of his hands. Jumping straight into his brand new album “True to Self” while a sea of cell phones snapped his picture, he kept the energy high as he dug into his award winning debut “Trapsoul.” He proceeded with an onslaught of hits that took marked his ascent from Soundcloud to Billboard including “Exchange” and “Don’t”.
A girl fainted next to me, probably from dehydration (or the smell of my own sweat!) but perhaps it was really from the excitement of seeing her favorite artist up close . . .we may never know. What I do know is that Tiller’s brand of R&B crooning mixed with an almost Drake-ish melodic flow, laid over ethereal beats and wrapped up in the trap aesthetic, makes him uniquely poised to hold the top spot in the R&B landscape for the foreseeable future.
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Review written by Robert Hein. All photos © 2017 Robert Hein / Low Life Photography.
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