Fresno Beehive

Tyler, the Creator’s transition to arena rock act is equal parts odd and electrifying

A Tyler, the Creator show is all about tension and release - the buildup and the drop.

The whole thing is predicated on moments of relative calm followed by the freak-out, which Tyler does via full body-shaking dance, yelps and screams. The audience, massed body-to-body flush up to the barricades protecting the stage, follows suit.

That was true when he performed at the Rainbow Ballroom in 2016. And it was true Saturday night when the 28-year old rapper stopped at the Selland Arena on his Igor tour.

The difference is Tyler has traded in the nerd-chic street sensibilities of his early days for new artistic ones.

Gone are the T-shirts, shorts and ball caps. Replaced with a slightly ill-fitting green suit white leather shoes and golden blonde bob haircut (matching wigs were available at the merchandise booth and could be seen bobbing about in the crowd).

Tyler thrashed around the stage with wild abandon, or just stopped to pose and take in the crowd noise. At moments, he let the crowd do almost all of the work of actually singing the songs, which only worked because everyone seemed to know the words.

Tyler, performing as his alter ego Igor, created an arena show that was somehow both commercially satisfying and somewhat subversive.

For the opening number, when arena acts typically show off their new stage production, (Kiss coming down from the rafters, for example) Tyler just stood center stage in a spotlight.

He didn’t move, save for his fingers, twitching to the beat, for close to two minutes. When he finally did move, it was a kinetic explosion.

On the production front, there were several full-scene backdrop changes. During one, a grand piano appeared which Tyler used to play the song “Earfquake.” There were also surprising pyrotechnics.

It all fed into the arc of the show, in which Tyler landed back in the spotlight, took a final bow, waved and ran off stage - no encore needed.

The setlist

This being the Igor tour, Tyler performed every song from that album, plus a few of the old tracks — “Yonkers,” “See You Again.”

The openers

GoldLink apparently flew in from Detroit on a private plane. He’d been called to meet with Kanye West earlier in the day but didn’t want to miss out on his first time playing Fresno.

The rapper began his set with a simple rule for the crowd: “Every time I count to three, you all better loose your .... minds.”

And they did, proving that mosh pits aren’t only for metal shows.

Blood Orange took things in the other direction. The band — fronted by English musician Devonté Hynes — kept things mid-tempo and spacey (and at times a little jazzy, a little funky). The songs were all strung together with quick interludes and little in the way of introduction or calls for crowd participation.

Some notes

Even before the arena filled up, you could tell who the crowd was there to see, by the chants: “Tyler, Tyler.”

Even before the arena filled up, kids were running to get a spot on the floor, close to the stage. Those people had a much different experience than those in the seats. It added an extra layer to the show, being able to watch the crowd surge back and forth or explode into a frenzy every time the beat dropped.

“Buncha meth. Two restaurants,” is how Tyler described Fresno, which seems harsh, but that’s his personality. We shouldn’t take it personally.

Tyler’s next iteration should be as a band-leader, ala James Brown.

Joshua Tehee covers breaking news for The Fresno Bee, with a focus on entertainment and a heavy emphasis on the Central Valley music scene. You can see him share the area’s top entertainment options Friday mornings on KMPH’s “Great Day” and read more of his work here.