Tyler, the Creator goes back to his roots in ‘Flower Boy’ tour

Aren Saunders-Gonzales/Staff

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After Vince Staples finished his set, a silky purple curtain dropped over the stage. King Krule’s sonorous, scratchy voice oozed over the shuffling audience, which slowly condensed closer to the stage. It’s the typical Tyler, the Creator audience — 16-year-old white boys clad in Supreme, septum rings galore, Golf le Fleur as far as the eye can see. But there’s something comforting about it all. Even after years of maturity and refining his music, he retains the intolerable, insatiably enthusiastic fan base he had at the peak of the Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA) “donut-Sk8 Hi” era.

The lights went down, a projection of fat, abstract leaves descended on the purple curtain and, in a sharp crescendo, the violins from “Where This Flower Blooms” came in and the curtain dropped. At the top of a staircase covered in huge plastic leaves, Tyler stood facing away from the audience. He wore a bright green traffic officer’s vest with a matching set of shorts. On his back was a tiny cartoon angel with the words “child of golf” inscribed in bubble letters. He took off his hat to reveal the leopard print buzz cut he sported at the Grammys the night before.

As the “I rock, I roll’s” burst out of the speakers, Tyler flailed down the stairs, two steps down and one step up. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he grooved and schmoneyed across the stage to Frank Ocean’s verses. His crowd was fully engrossed, screaming Ocean’s choruses back to him. The instrumentals stopped, Tyler yelled, “I grow!” and the “Flower Boy” concert began.

The stage faded into a golden glow and Alex O’Connor, the man behind Rex Orange County, led the audience into the track with his English accent. The audience knew every lyric to the song’s intro, and when the the song dipped into Tyler’s verses, he got the crowd revved up. Two guys from Tyler’s posse — left onstage mixing the beats — had their hands in the air, getting even more hyped than Tyler as “boredom, boredom, boredom,” bounced through the Armory.

The stage grew dark red and Tyler ripped into “911.” While he’s more tame on Flower Boy than on previous albums, onstage Tyler was ripping through the verses and he had the audience thrashing in a Goblin kind of way. With Flower Boy, there was a chance that maybe, just maybe, this would be the start of a more sensitive, R&B Tyler and 2018 would be full of the jazzy doo-wops of Tyler’s “Tiny Desk” concert.

Well, don’t say goodbye just yet to the man who came out with the politically incorrect monstrosity of Cherry Bomb. “911” wrapped up and Tyler screamed, “That was hot!” He repeated it a few more times until he whipped his head with a towel and screamed, “That was hot!” as if orgasming in front of his sold-out show. As he emphatically shouted, “I’m moist,” one couldn’t help but feel a longing for OFWGKTA’s Adult Swim show, “Loiter Squad.”

He then ripped into “Mr. Lonely,” arguably one of the saddest songs on Flower Boy. He got the crowd hushed as he moped around the stage singing “I can’t even lie, I’ve been lonely as fuck.” It became immediately obvious how much control Tyler had over the audience members when he could, within four bars, get them moshing to his lyrics about how isolating life can be as a performer. While the crowd followed his lead, it went from calm and engaged to absolutely apeshit  —  almost hypnotized by Tyer’s captivating performance.

As flower-shaped projections swirled on the ceiling, Tyler performed some of the older songs that jump-started his career. He sang “IFHY” with a backdrop of LED stars — dedicating it to the fans who had been there with him since the beginning, before Flower Boy had brought him so much attention.

In a sensitive, rather predictable finale, Tyler ended the show with “See You Again” — the fourth track on the album featuring R&B singer Kali Uchis. It was cute to see him groove across the stage, singing over Uchis’ choruses in the song. And because his show was so popular, the Armory added another date for the next night, so Tyler shouted, “I’ll probably see some of y’all motherfuckers tomorrow.”

Annalise Kamegawa covers music. Contact her at [email protected].