The first time I heard , I was 11 years old and hopelessly nerdy, with a music taste that started and ended with Taylor Swift. He was a breath of fresh air, with a knack for word play and sampling that, in my adolescent eyes, rivaled that of Kanye West. Just like that, I was hooked, and have been for the past six years. So when Allen dedicated his sold out November 7 Foundry headliner to the crowd, I knew I was in for a night of my teenage dreams.
It began with a free meet and greet with the rapper himself. That’s right: included with every ticket was a photo opportunity with Allen. He stood at the venue’s entrance long after the show was supposed to start, chatting and posing with every fan that came through the door. Though brief—each meet and greet was a mere two flash photos long—it channeled a whole new emotion that I like to call forward–thinking nostalgia. Meeting Allen resurfaced all of my well–suppressed middle school memories—the awkward outfits, the fangirl phase, and my unrelenting crush on him. And yet, it made me thirsty to continue reminiscing, to create more memories for a mental scrapbook. In short, Allen made me excited to look back on a future that hadn’t happened ... yet.
Forward–thinking nostalgia was theme of Allen's concert. Opening with “Eighteen Cool,” a song that’s literally about refusing to peak, Allen set the audience on a course that only went upwards. He flowed seamlessly from era to era, melding hits from 2012 with more recent bangers. The most striking of these moments was a mashup of “You are Not a Robot” and “James Franco,” transporting even the newest fan back to a simpler time.
“This is for those of y’all who have been riding with me forever,” screamed Allen before launching into the mashup. As one of those ride–or–die fans, I was instantly reminded of why I keep coming back to Allen, even as my music taste evolves into that of a grumpy old hipster. He carries the show with the energy of a recently pledged frat boy: mischievous and self–assured, yet excited and unpredictable.
Allen derails his own show in the best way possible, making it feel less like a regimented concert and more like your first Saturday night at college, where you said yes to everything for fun’s sake, and fun’s sake only. He pauses set list for a brief tribute to “Wonderwall” by Oasis, AKA the soundtrack to our collective eighth grade emo phases. He rolls out a makeshift game show wheel, pulling members of the audience on stage for a chance to win free merchandise, or in his words, “something even better—a threesome.” He even hosts an onstage trivia contest, pitting two alleged lifelong fans against one another, with the loser getting a store bought sheet cake pounded in his face. That night, Allen indoctrinated us into his tightest circle of friends, showing us exactly what’s like to be more than a spectator.
Perhaps that’s why he aptly titled his 34–stop tour “Hangin’ With Hoodie.” It allowed us to see behind the braggadocious lyrics he touts in “Cake Boy,” the night’s highlight. Allen crowd surfed in an inflatable raft, further cementing his role as the veritable life of the of the party. But still, Allen's set exposed his as so much more than that. The entirety of the concert is fan–driven. He talked to the front row candidly, filling the space between bars with choruses of “Oh I remember you!” and “How are you? I saw you at my last show!”
After serenading us with a mash–up of “Small Town” and Shawn Mendes’ “Holding Me Back” that made the teen girls and hardened rap fans in the audience swoon equally, Allen posed an important question: “Now, do you want one song, or three?” The answer was obvious, and he launched in to a string of his most recognizable hits with a newfound fervor. Beginning with “Act My Age,” followed by “No Faith in Brooklyn” and closing with “No Interruption,” Allen bounced around on stage, bringing his opening act, Gianni and Kyle, onstage for a final bout of rowdy fun.
Before leaving the stage, Allen said he “never wants this night to fucking end.” Guess what? Neither did the crowd.