No matter how many rehearsals, soundchecks, lighting tests and run-throughs a show is subjected to, it’s never a guarantee that nothing can go wrong. There’s always a possibility of something happening. But that’s of little consequence: What matters is the ability of the artist to play on in spite of a curveball. Bryson Tiller has mastered this skill.
On the evening of August 20, people gathered at Portland’s Rose Quarter to see Tiller perform on his Set It Off tour. Tiller has a special place for Portland in his heart. He kicked off his very first tour behind his freshman album, Trapsoul, at the Roseland Theater, and the show sold out in mere minutes. For this latest tour, supporting his newest release, True to Self, Tiller made a step up from the Roseland to the Rose Quarter, playing to a packed house at the Theater of the Clouds.
The show promised an early 7:30 start. As the time came for the night’s first set (opener H.E.R. was first up), everyone settled in. Then the time passed… and nothing came.
Ten minutes, twenty minutes, half an hour rolled around. And still, all we claimed witness to was an empty stage with a drum, a keyboard and a mic. What was holding up Tiller was still a mystery. We simply hoped whatever it was, we wouldn’t need to put the blame on him.
Half an hour turned to 45 minutes, and as 8:30 came around, the lights finally went down. A voice came over the speakers: “We apologize for the delay. There were some technical difficulties, but we’ll begin the show very shortly. We’re starting things off with H.E.R.”
After another ten minutes in the dark, H.E.R., also known as Gabi Wilson, took the stage along with her band. H.E.R.’s mysterious and sultry R&B proved to be well worth an hour delay. Her talent behind the mic is no secret; however, what stood out most was her multi-instrumental abilities. Wilson took to the piano for slower ballad numbers. She also took up an electric guitar, playing some riffs and shredding the strings before laying down a verse or two. With only two EPs of music to date, H.E.R. didn’t have a lot to play, but even the short set stunned the crowd and had some begging for a few more songs after her 20 minutes on stage.
By this point, it was just past 9:00. It was good to finally have things back on track and the show rolling. But then another wait took over the venue. The night’s second opener, superstar producer Metro Boomin, brought bigger productions. This brought a 45-minute wait while the stagehands set up Metro’s large, screen-encapsulated platform, plus many boards, keys and laptops. Finally, after everything was in place, the show was back on.
Metro Boomin has produced several huge hits. Every song he played was immediately recognized by the crowd, who eagerly sang and rapped every word. If his songs weren’t so widely known, than his live set would have been mediocre at best. Though his skills behind the boards in the studio are undeniable, his live DJ set consisted of sudden and messy transitions, topped with a healthy dose of airhorn sound effects, a DJ stereotype come to life. Despite this, Metro’s hits, productions and hyped-up personality won over the crowd, who were on their feet the whole set, jumping and dancing and screaming along to every song.
As a result of the late start to the show, the production managers wanted Metro to wrap up quickly, in hopes they could still give Bryson Tiller his full set length and meet the venue’s curfew. Metro Boomin, though, wasn’t having it.
“They want me to get off the stage,” he told the crowd, who responded with a deafening boo. “Well, I’m not done. We’re gonna keep going, Portland!”
Despite pleas from the stage managers, Metro Boomin continued his set until roughly 10:30. If the show were to remain on schedule for the set closing and estimated curfew, Bryson Tiller would’ve only been allowed half an hour. Obviously, that wasn’t going to be an option.
The stage hands went to work, quickly clearing the stage, wiping it down and setting everything up for Tiller’s headline set in an astounding 10 minutes. It may have been late, and many audience members may have been tired from the delays in the show, but once the Louisville rapper began his set, starting off with his True to Self cut, “Self Made,” all of that was behind us. Tiller captivated from the very beginning, with a mix of his musical passion, stellar vocals and charming personality.
“Portland,” he said between songs, “Welcome to the Set It Off tour! They don’t want me to talk too much, but I just wanna say hello to all of you. Sorry about the delay.”
Rushing through his set, Tiller shaved off 15 minutes but still managed to fit in his very best. Playing through tracks off his newest record and well as older fan favorites, Tiller never let the energy of his set drop.
His mixture of rap and smooth R&B held everyone in awe. Though the production was a beautiful backdrop, with massive screens as well as a smaller stage set back in a frame behind them, the highlight of the show was Tiller’s vocals, always alluring. His music nestled nicely in a place between laid back and upbeat, which gave the crowd enough energy to forget the past technical difficulties of the night and be fully engrossed in the music.
After playing through hits like “Don’t,” “Exchange” and his latest collaboration with DJ Khaled, “Wild Thoughts,” Tiller left the stage, but still found time for an encore before saying goodnight to Portland.
“I’ll never forget you, Portland,” Tiller said. “You’ve always supported me. We can’t leave this without Set It Off.”
Though the clock ticked close to midnight, the crowd was not eager to leave. As Tiller played through the tour’s namesake, the Portland audience stood captivated once again by Tiller’s presence. The time was irrelevant. No matter the technical difficulties and delays in the show, Tiller’s music and showmanship won over the crowd in the end.