Jack Harlow energizes Fox Theater but leaves more to be desired

Photo of Jack Harlow
Urban Wyatt/Courtesy

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Kentucky native Jack Harlow has come to the West Coast on his national “Crème de la Crème Tour,” arriving in Oakland’s iconic Fox Theater last Friday with a few smash hits under his belt. The 23-year-old rapper is full of potential and has never shined as brightly as in 2021, when his feature on Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby” gave Harlow his first No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100. Despite a special appearance from Oakland’s own G-Eazy to perform their collaboration “Moana” and a successful proposal in the audience, Harlow’s performance was not quite the crème de la crème.

Fox Theater is a beautiful venue boasting exquisite architecture, and it’s a fantastic space to enjoy a night of music. The perfect size for a Jack Harlow concert, the medium-size theater was comfortably packed full of fans and concentrated excitement. Harlow declared that this is the last time fans will see him at this size of venue, though — he told fans that the next time he comes to Oakland, they’ll have to catch him at Oakland Arena.

Rappers The Homies opened the show, a group co-created by Harlow and consisting of friends Ace Pro, Quiiso, Shloob and 2forwOyNE — four of Harlow’s “brothers” name-dropped in his hit “Tyler Herro.” Unfortunately, after being warmed up by the opener, the crowd went cold again due to a noticeably long gap occurring between the two performances. The crowd’s energy was slowly replaced by impatient discomfort, and Harlow’s eventual appearance elicited both cheers and sighs of relief.

Harlow’s first song of the night was “Tyler Herro.” The rapper emerged from the “Crème de la Crème” cafe set in a slick all-white outfit as the song’s recognizable track played behind him. Immediately recognizing the hit, the crowd fervently welcomed Harlow with applause, and when he started rapping, the audience sang along every word with him — the eager crowd was finally regaining its energy. However, just as the audience was reveling in shared enthusiasm, “Tyler Herro” was cut short with a booming sound effect. To the chagrin of some fans, Harlow hadn’t finished his first song and one of his biggest hits — a song that was already only 2 ½ minutes long.

“Tyler Herro,” “Face of My City” and several other songs were all shortened with the same “boom” at the end of a verse or chorus, leaving many audience members wishing to have heard the song in its entirety or, at the very least, to have smoother and more varied song transitions. The repetitive cutoff was an incredibly confusing choice, especially considering none of Harlow’s songs are excessively long. Unfortunately, these occurrences gave the editing and organization of Harlow’s setlist a lazy feel, detracting from the evident effort and passion he puts into his performances.

The lighting for the show was also quite simplistic, consisting mainly of rotating colors for each song. While this light rotation — though nothing particularly captivating — did its job well enough to avoid complaint, the show included a few jarring moments with aggressive strobe lights, which were a bit too overwhelming for both the songs at the time and the audience’s comfort.

The parts of the songs Harlow did perform, however, were enjoyable. Harlow possesses a distinct, smooth flow consistent throughout his songs. Though it’s nearly impossible to replicate the same amount of laid-back effortlessness that exists in his recordings, Harlow still demonstrated commendable skill and talent in his solo live performance, able to engage a whole crowd.

Jack Harlow’s show at Fox Theater made for a fun and exhilarating night, but one can’t help but think that with some small adjustments, he could’ve really “put the ball in the end zone.”

Contact Joy Diamond at [email protected].