Kid Cudi show lacks excitement despite smashing acoustic guitar

In many ways, going to a concert has a certain amount of predictability. The opener goes on at 8, headliner at 10. The set will have a simple backdrop. There probably won’t be any guest appearances and the performance itself won’t last longer than about 90 minutes. For Cleveland-based rapper Kid Cudi, however, “predictability” simply isn’t in his vocabulary—at least not in his live performances.

Kid Cudi played Madison’s Orpheum Theatre Sunday night, nearly two months after his initially scheduled performance, which was postponed after the rapper cancelled his entire “Especial” tour in early December.

From start to finish, Cudi’s performance was filled with surprises, both good and bad. For starters, the show started over an hour late, leaving fans audibly restless. As I sat listening to the crowd chant “Cudi, Cudi, Cudi” over Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” I was left to wonder whether or not there would be an opener. But a little after 9, the '90s grunge pre-show playlist cut off and a voice telling fans to “live in the moment” transitioned into a spectacular light show as Kid Cudi finally came onstage.

During the first half of his performance, one thing became immediately clear to me: This is an artist who cares. From the incredibly detailed set—complete with seven tube televisions, an old couch, several tropical plants and a few slightly disturbing mannequin—to his love for interacting with the crowd, Kid Cudi painted the picture of an artist very much in tune with his own image.

I was also impressed with how well his new album Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven translated onstage, despite critics’ generally negative response to the record. With a live drummer to accompany him, tracks off the new album took on a much darker sound. Cudi’s vocals became harsher, sometimes indiscernible, yet remained captivating throughout. But while performances such as these were undoubtedly interesting, Cudi’s older music was the clear audience favorite. During songs like “Soundtrack 2 My Life” and “Mojo So Dope,” there was an undeniable energy in the theater that Cudi clearly fed off of. At one point, he even contemplated crowd surfing and scaling the theater walls to the balcony. Spoiler alert: he didn’t.

Right as the show seemed to be reaching its peak, however, Cudi abruptly announced an intermission. It seemed odd and counterintuitive to me that an artist who came on an entire hour late would need an intermission, especially when an intermission at a hip-hop concert is almost unheard of.

After the intermission, which lasted about half an hour, Cudi returned with a haunting rendition of “Edge Of The Earth/Post Mortem Boredom,” which ended with an a capella solo. He then picked up his guitar and transitioned into an acoustic version of “CONFUSED!,” my personal favorite performance of the night. You can imagine my disappointment when he smashed that same guitar later in the night.

He then called out guest performer King Chip, who is featured in Cudi’s 2013 album Indicud. At this point, the show seemed to be dragging on. With nearly 25 minutes of Cudi/King Chip side banter and maybe five or six onstage joint hits, it almost felt as if we were having another intermission. The undeniable energy that filled the theater in the first half was slipping away, as audience members in the balcony section began to sit down. Much to my own disappointment, Cudi’s music was no longer keeping me on my feet.

Overall, Cudi is an artist with a clear passion for his work and fans. However, after an hour wait time for a two-and-a-half hour set, the novelty and excitement of going to a show quickly turned into boredom. Ultimately, the strength of the show’s first half juxtaposed with the extended, drawn-out second half left me with an exceedingly average view of Kid Cudi as a live performer.

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