Future’s set at Outside Lands wasn’t good, but maybe that doesn’t matter

Outside Lands/FilmMagic.com/Courtesy
Outside Lands / FilmMagic.com / Courtesy

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By now, it’s no secret that a statistically significant portion of the world’s biggest rappers have no idea whatsoever of how to put on a good live show. The thrill of paying a visit to one of their shows stems more from being in the presence of someone so ubiquitous than it does from any aspect of their performance or stage presence. At his Saturday night set at Outside Lands, Future proved himself to be very much an adherent to the rule, rather than an exception.

Although Future wasn’t technically one of the festival’s major headliners, a crowd sprawled across Hellman Hollow just to see him that night, reaching so far back that to even catch a glimpse of the rapper on one of the many screens that surrounded the stage must have been a feat for some. Again — it doesn’t matter so much whether the rapper puts on a good show or is even visible, as long as they are present to wave the crowd through their greatest hits.

Standing under a background whose pink-violet glow was reminiscent of the DS2 album artwork, Future began to run through some of his greatest hits. While his backdrop may have come straight from DS2, the rapper maintained a healthy balance between hits from each of his latest albums, not shying away from material from his collaborative mixtapes either.

The problem with performing collab-heavy material is that it takes a performer with more than a few tricks up their sleeve to maintain a sense of marvel even when the backing track kicks in. Unfortunately, Future had an alarming scarcity of tricks up his sleeve. Beyond himself and a DJ, only two dancers occupied the stage. While they certainly stole the show, it’s hard to say whether it was by their own merit or because Future set the bar so low. To be fair, each dancer seemed quite skilled on his own, but each totally lacked coordination, both with the other dancer and with Future himself. It was a clumsy addition to what was already a hot mess of a show. Thankfully, this didn’t seem to matter to the audience — as long as Future was onstage, all was well.

Future’s attempts to engage the crowd may have been feeble by any measure, but these moments proved to be some of the strongest of his set. It wasn’t his saying or doing anything truly original to rouse the crowd that was so effective — he quite rarely went beyond alternating between addressing the crowd as “Bay Area” and “West Coast.” It was his star power, rather than his power to command the stage, that made every hand in the crowd shoot up when Future said, “All my lowlifes for life, put your hands up right now,” as he introduced “Low Life,” his song with The Weeknd.

What followed was disappointing — some more halfhearted raps delivered by Future, who occasionally found it within himself to move up and down the stage, and of course, more out-of-sync dancing around him. And as per usual, in what had by this point become quite an unsurprising turn of events, the crowd ate it up.

At the end of the day, if nothing else, Future’s set came to serve as some sort of proof that being a big name might matter more to festivalgoers seeking a good time before heading out for the night than being a skilled and seasoned performer. Ultimately, even if Future had rapped, sang and performed his heart out, the audience’s reaction would have been much the same, so why bother putting in any more effort than is absolutely necessary?

Sannidhi Shukla covers music. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @sannidhishukla.