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Photos: Chance The Rapper & His Puppets Color A Magnificent Festival

By Stephen Gossett in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 25, 2016 12:44PM

Going into Magnificent Coloring Day, the debut music festival by Chance the Rapper felt like a culmination—the flowering of the Chatham-born hip-hop artist’s spectacular recent rise. He made the most of the opportunity he’d built for himself on Saturday night with an ambitious, odd and overall unforgettable performance for the massive, sold-out crowd at US Cellular Field—one that was preceded by a slew of great shows and jaw-dropping cameos.

Chance’s song selection stuck frequently to this year’s hit mixtape, Coloring Book, and his breakthrough Acid Rap (2013), but it was the curious "how" as much as "what": Chano going back and forth with a giant marionette lion/spirit guide named Carlos, duetting with another puppet for “Same Drugs,” and enlisting choir backup from children both real and animatronic for the set-closing “Blessing.” It was hip-hop meets the Children’s Television Workshop, and probably anathema for critics who think he treads toward infantilization. But the record-breaking crowd of thousands thrilled to what felt like a historic moment in Chicago hip-hop, felt-assisted or not. And when he launched into “No Problem,” you could feel an entire ballpark—if not the whole rap landscape—quake.

The day began with Prismizer wizard Francis and the Lights performing to an unforgiving, early afternoon timeslot—under-attended as the crowd still filed through. Then, a half-hour past his scheduled start, new-school standard-bearer Lil Uzi Vert instantly washed away late-arrival anxiety as fans stormed the dugout roofs for the one-two of “Do What I Want” and “Ps and Qs.”

Young Thug was a no-show for his set (we’re still processing our disappointment), so Vert led to Tyler, The Creator. The pit seemed especially taken with the aggro onetime Odd Future ringleader, but the highlight in our minds was his persistent attack on the “fuckin’ idiots” who sold stage-side seats whose view was obstructed by scaffolding and tarps.

After Tyler, it was the walk on of all walk on’s: Kanye West sent the stadium into a frenzy (plenty of vendors and security included) with a medley of “Black Skinhead,” “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” “Touch the Sky,” “Gold Digger,” “Father Stretch My Hand Pt.1” and “Pt. 2,” and “THat Part,” before Chance jumped out to help close with “Ultralight Beam.” Thousands of people saw it live; millions will say they did. Incredible.

John Legend somehow followed and, far from the grown-folks-shaped peg in the festival’s contemporary hole we expected, was a fine complement, delivering a hit parade with much more grit than usually heard in studio versions. Common joined to close the set with “Glory,” so it looks like there’s no bad blood for MCD’s crossover with Aahh! Fest Day One. Chicago-born comedy great Hannibal Buress followed with a quick surprise bit about ‘Ye and all was right.

One any other day, the Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz duo of Collegrove (plus Jimmy Butler cameo!) would’ve been the runaway highlight. The crowd dined on the palpable camaraderie between master and protégé, and Weezy’s wide range (“A Milli,” Go DJ,” “Mrs. Officer) was downright exemplary. Then Alicia Keys delivered a hit-heavy command performance (“Empire State of Mind,” “You Don’t Know My Name,” “This Girl Is On Fire,” “No One”) while on her feet at her piano. Skrillex closed and, despite a noticeable exodus after Chance, lets just say that reports of EDM’s demise in popularity may have been exaggerated.

There were some first-year logistical issues we won't bore you with, but overall it was all, well, pretty magnificent. Can't wait to see what Chance does next year.