Chance The Rapper at Oracle Arena, by Joshua Huver
Chance The Rapper (photo: Joshua Huver)

On Wednesday, April 26, Chicago native Chance the Rapper arrived at Oakland’s Oracle Arena for the second stop on his 2017 Be Encouraged Tour and, according to Chance, the largest performance in his career.

For a lot of people, massive venues like the Greek Theater in Berkeley are career-defining highlights that let you know you’ve made it, that people are interested in your music. Chance headlined the Greek in 2016, but even that couldn’t prepare him for the overwhelming sensation of selling out Oracle.

After winning three Grammy Awards earlier this year, it is safe to say that it’s something he will need to get used to. He has two sold out shows next week at Red Rocks, several festivals lined up and more arenas on the way, including some heavyweights in the NBA and college basketball realms, like the Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan (which is in the waning of its lifespan), and the Greensboro Coliseum Complex in North Carolina.

Chance The Rapper at Oracle Arena, by Joshua Huver

Despite coming off his biggest year, Chance had nothing but love, humility, and gratitude for the fans, pointing at and nodding in response to several individuals. At the end of the show, he was even able to give those fans in the upper bowl of the arena close attention and a special treat.

By the time he took the stage at 9:30, a deafening and high tempo “Chance!” chant overtook the mixtape on the loud speakers. When the PA sounds dropped, an eruption of cheers greeted the entrance of Chance’s backing band, known as the Social Experiment.

On keyboards, bringing production knowledge and music theory to the tracks was Peter Cottontale. Nico Segal, also known as Donnie Trumpet, swooned the crowd with his blistering mix of smooth runs and punchy bursts of energy. Stix, an apt stage moniker for a drummer that usually goes by the name Greg Landfair Jr., kept the beats kicking all night long and arguably made one of the biggest impacts on the overall sound of the evening by using live drums. In addition to the band, Chance also utilized a four-piece vocal group called Third Story to achieve a modern gospel sound and elegant harmonies.

Chance The Rapper at Oracle Arena, by Joshua Huver

Not long after the musicians had settled at their stations, Chance came running on stage, all smiles and with so much energy he couldn’t resist jumping up, down, forward and from side to side – a display that reared itself often throughout the show.

Chance kicked off the show with five cuts from his 2013 mix tape Acid Rap, beginning with “Everybody’s Something” and running through “Pusha Man/Paranoia,” “Smoke Again,” “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” and “Favorite Song.” Fireworks, confetti cannons, and LED visuals were all on display early and often.

A trio of Kanye West tracks followed, all from the 2016 album The Life Of Pablo. Chance covered Kanye West’s “Waves,” “Father Stretch My Hands To Thee,” and “Ultralight Beam.” Following the Kanye medley, Chance moved to his debut mixtape 10 Day for the lone old-school track, "Juke Juke," followed by four pages out of 2016’s Coloring Book mixtape. During “All Night” Chance took the time to give some love to his band and let them show off before returning to Coloring Book for “Angels” and “Blessings.”

Chance The Rapper at Oracle Arena, by Joshua Huver

A deeply religious person, Chance’s grandmother is credited as being the one responsible for bringing the rapper back from being a self-described “Xan-zombie.” “Blessings” is an unofficial anthem chronicling his turning point; out of that song Chance moved into the Social Experiment’s 2015 Surf track titled “Sunday Candy,” an ode to his grandmother.

Chance had four more tracks up his sleeve, all from Coloring Book. “Finish Line / Drown” broke down into an interlude as a string of catwalk platforms were lowered from the arena roof. While rapping the lyrics to “Same Drugs,” Chance took his time strolling down the catwalk until he got to the very end and serenaded those fans at the very back of the arena with a freestyle and transition into “How Great” to end the show. Check out video below:

Chance and the Social Experiment returned to the stage two minutes later and began “All We Got,” the first of three more songs from Coloring Book to end the show. But after starting the tune, he cut the band to address the crowd.

“OAKLAND!” he yelled, signaling an enormous response. “I’m honestly never going to get used to this. Over 15,000 people, this is ridiculous. This song is very personal, and last year we were playing it to one, maybe two thousand. But back then we would get everyone in on the intro, so let’s get 15,000 people in on this right now.”

Eventually he moved into “Summer Friends” and before the final song of the night, “Blessings (Reprise),” Chance sat at the edge of the stage and continued to drink in the outpouring of love and support from the crowd.

“I fucking love the Bay and this is the best song I’ve ever written,” Chance said.