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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Review: Denzel Curry touches down in Sacramento for ‘Melt My Eyez See Your Future’ tour

The rapper’s new artistic direction may differ from what fans seek at his shows 

 

By JACOB ANDERSON — arts@theaggie.org

 

Florida rapper Denzel Curry hit the Ace of Spades in Sacramento on April 9 as part of the tour for his new album, ”Melt My Eyez See Your Future,” released less than a month ago. 

The new album is part of a larger change for the artist. Over his past few releases, Curry has been swapping out his frenetic, aggressive vocals for slower and more constant ones to accompany a newfound sense of honesty in his writing. The new Denzel Curry wants to preach about himself and the world: no haughty personas, no jokes and no lies. The transformation appears to have reached its final stage in “Eyez,” and this show is one of the first opportunities to see how his ravenous fanbase feels about it.

If the show’s first moments are any indication, fans can’t get enough. The energy is indisputable, and a constantly moving mosh pit sends skulls and elbows flying, from which The California Aggie’s expensive camera equipment demands constant protection. The Ace of Spades’ $14 beers lurch up and down and form a kind of sprinkler system propelling a fine, bread-scented mist throughout the crowd — it’s hard to tell which part of one’s body is wet from Modelo versus sweat. 

And there is certainly sweat: the general admission line is about twice what’s typical for the venue, wrapping around the neighboring restaurants and nearly poking into the nearby residential area, and all those people are now packed onto the Spades’ warehouse-esque floor in a way that one imagines would jack up the blood pressure of an OSHA inspector. Plus there’s basically no ventilation there. By the time the opening acts are done, it’s a very humid 90 degrees and AG Club’s Baby Boy looks like he’s been put halfway through a carwash.

Mr. Curry’s move toward a more personal, somber and gradual style — a shift that began with his crepuscular 2018 release “TA13OO” and developed further in 2019’s “ZUU” — hasn’t done all that much to diversify his audience from the adrenaline-seeking mosh pit dwellers he first courted with “Nostalgic 64.”

This fact becomes harder to ignore once Curry hits the stage. He’s wearing a white hoodie and quickly announces that he’s “sick as f***.” The rapper’s hobbled walk to the center of the stage guarantees nobody can misinterpret his usage of the word “sick”; he’s torn his anterior cruciate ligament and is suffering from some flu-like symptoms, he says. He also pauses between tracks halfway through the set and walks offstage, betraying that even his limited movement during the show is extracting a toll. 

The situation seems bad enough that one can hear murmurs of speculation among the crowd that he might not last the whole set, but Mr. Curry seems to be drawing from some kind of spiritual reserves when he launches into the first track, “Melt Session #1,” the moody opener of his new album. The crowd is clearly antsy for Curry to bring a level of energy that neither he nor the song immediately has; he’s backed by a subdued melody of piano and saturnine female vocals while shooting off intensely introspective bars like, “Why I feel like hiding a truth is finding a lie? / Dealt with thoughts of suicide, women I’ve objectified / Couldn’t see it through my eyes so for that, I apologize / I’m just hypnotized, working hard to empathize.” 

The crowd is indulging both his sickness and the comparatively somber, sincere new material. He can sense it, and he directs the crowd in turning up for the track’s ending, which consists of repeating “I keep walkin’,” which they do with notable enthusiasm. Mr. Curry is now jumping around in a way that can’t be good for his leg, and the crowd is matching him. But their reaction to “Melt Session #1” — if representative of how tracks from “Melt My Eyez See Your Future” have been going over on the tour until now — might play a role in the rest of the night’s tracklist leaning into his heavier material from earlier records like “Imperial.”

The sincerity of “Melt My Eyez See Your Future” has been building for a while. Curry expressed the two-pronged sentiment in an interview with Loud and Quiet, where he said that he wanted to capture on his new album how “we avoid facing the truth ourselves when it’s right in front of us” and that the chaos of smaller shows was losing its appeal for him. 

“I knew I had to have bigger songs, something that people could enjoy,” Curry said. “I wanted people to sing my songs this time. Yeah, they can mosh all day, but that’s venue stuff. I want stadiums.”

But Mr. Curry is touring venues for the time being, and the combination of his sickness and the sensitivity of the new record is revealing a sort of struggle between his desire to create bigger, more sensitive music and the intractable venue-sized energy of his Sacramento fans.

This doesn’t seem to be much on anyone’s mind, though. Once Curry starts feeling himself with the older songs, things get explosive again. He’s shouting the bars and moving as much as he’s able, and when it’s time for the encore, he’s about as drenched as Baby Boy was. Whether it’s because of sickness or the stagnant heat of the room, it’s hard to tell. He closes the show with “DIET_” off of 2020’s “UNLOCKED,” and retreats from the stage to operatic applause.

The night was successful, especially when one considers how hard it must’ve been for Mr. Curry to keep up with the show’s intensity in his condition, but it offered little in the way of indication regarding whether or not the new direction of his music will allow him to reach the heights he so clearly craves. The solid but not reverential critical reception to “Eyez” doesn’t suggest that this is the album to push him over the edge into superstardom — it’s possible there’s still an ingredient he needs to discover if he’s to reconcile his own musical past and present and combine them into something larger.

 

Written by: Jacob Anderson — arts@theaggie.org

 

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