Walking up to Rogers Arena on a dam Tuesday night in November brought back memories. Memories of days gone by, where people in this city were united over a common goal. When we all got excited together roughly 3-4 times a week. When we would shell out $200+ to go inside Rogers Arena. But alas, hockey is not with us anymore. Now, people in this city meet at the arena on the edge of downtown for different reasons. For concerts. Tonight, a large contingent of people were swarming to Rogers Arena for the 2050 Tour Featuring Wiz Khalifa. If you know anything about the Pittsburgh rapper, then you will understand why it smelled like weed across the street from the arena.
This 2050 Tour actually has way more acts than just Wiz on it, but due to my interest in politics, I only caught the Black & Yellow hit makers set. As the house lights dropped on the packed house, a large bong on stage began to smoke out the top. Now when I say “large bong” I mean like a 25 foot bong. I don’t think it was operational, but it was a nice take on the old smoke machine. The spotlights hit the front of the stage and the crowd erupted when they saw Wiz Khalifa at the microphone stand. This wasn’t just any old run of the mill mic stand either. It was draped with scarves just like Aerosmith leader Steven Tyler’s. It seemed fitting for the rapper to channel the rock and roll vibe since he is on an arena tour.
The transition from mid-sized venue to arenas is hard for any artist. I find it particularly difficult for a hip hop artist to make the transition. On smaller scale tours, typically it is just the artist and his DJ on stage, hardly enough to fill an arena stage. The way to make the move is to be able to perform your songs with a live band, as well as your DJ. I’ve seen this done before from the likes of Jay-Z, Lil Wayne & J. Cole. I can safely say, you can now add Wiz Khalifa’s name to the list of rappers who are able to perform, and fill, an arena with a rap show. And what a show it was.
Like most hip hop artists out there, Wiz has grown his fan base through years of free mix tapes. He drew heavily from the widely successful Cabin Fever 1 and 2 tapes. The mix tapes feature a combo of up tempo bangers, and down tempo love making tracks. Wiz and his band were able to seamlessly go from one style to another. All the while, the general admission floor, and mostly packed lower bowl, was eating it up.
The show was coming to a close. Wiz had gone from leather jacket, shirt, and jeans to just the jeans on. He was giving it his all for the people. He moved from side to side on the stage. He encouraged singing along. He induced a few clap sections with the crowd. This all came together when he performed the youth anthem Young, Wild & Free. Once the beat started the few people who were in their seats shot up to their feet and began to sing along. “So what we get drunk. So what we smoke weed. We’re just having fun, we don’t care who sees. So what we go out. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Living young and wild and free.”
Alcohol sales were booming on this night. Security did next to nothing to curb any smoking in the arena. It almost sounds like they listened to the advice in the song. Plus, since it was an all-ages show, most of the crowd was indeed young, wild and free.
My night ended with Wiz accomplishing yet another impressive feat for a touring artist. He took by far his biggest hit, Black & Yellow, and flipped it on its head for the live show. The band injected the unofficial theme song for the city of Pittsburgh with a heavy dose of rock. I could see Wiz rapping the song on stage, but for the life of me I couldn’t hear him over the crowd. “Uhh huh you know what it is.”
Photos © Jamie Taylor