Warm-toned yellow lights glisten onto the sidewalk from a vertical sign that reads “ARAGON.” I walk inside the venue and see elegant decor that transports me back to what I imagine it looked like on opening day in the mid-1920s. The green and yellow mosaic-style, carpet-covered, double staircase awaits, guiding me to the stage. I am met with the maple-colored wooden dance floor where all of the general admission ticket-holders stand, waiting anxiously for their beloved artist to appear onstage: Aminé. Looking up from the dance floor, I see painted artworks of space, filled with star constellations and the planets. This is definitely one of the most well-designed venues I’ve ever stepped foot in. Bodies, mostly teenagers and young adults, start to flood this once-empty area in preparation for the Portland native rapper/singer to commence the "Best Tour Ever Tour."
454 Was Most Definitely Not ‘4 Real’
One of the best things I can say about rapper/producer Willie Wilson, aka 454, is that he started on time. People who were at this show can attest to the less-than-mediocre performance that was 454. When the Florida-born artist got on stage he tried to get the crowd hyped. The keyword here is “tried.” He ran around the stage acting more like a chicken with his head cut off, and the crowd ultimately wasn’t feeling it.
The first song he performed was “ANDRETTI” from his 2021 debut album, 4 Real. This song was rushed and hard to hear due to him being too lax. “FACE TIME” and “PISCES” were a bit better, but still fell flat due to 454’s vocals. He sang more tracks from his album and in between them he kept trying to get the crowd more enthusiastic by asking “How are you Chicago?” or saying “Make some noise Chicago,” but this proved ineffective and the crowd stayed moderately stagnant. His lack of stage presence was evident over the course of the show. He didn’t seem like he knew what to do once he was on stage and that he was just winging it, but he is still a newer artist—given his debut album only came out last year—so he just needs more practice.
He ended his performance with “LATE NIGHT” and the crowd came alive. “LATE NIGHT” is his strongest song and one that he should have begun with to hook the crowd in. It’s his biggest tune—garnering 1.3 million streams on Spotify—and 454’s distinct flow coats your eardrums drawing you in. Overall, 454’s not a bad artist. His lyricism is clever and there is a sense of vulnerability at the heart of his music. He has a smooth tone and a fairly solid production style. He just doesn’t have his live performing down yet.
AJ Tracey and Swoosh God ‘Pick It Up'
English rapper AJ Tracey teamed up with Swoosh God—a name given to him by a coworker of his at the time at Nike—to deliver an engaging and entertaining performance. To put it simply, watching these two artists was fun. It was effortless and the two obviously have an excellent dynamic and great onstage chemistry.
Tracey kicked off the set with the fast-paced “Triple S.” For a track named after a pair of shoes, the Balenciaga Triple S, it was the dark horse. It has a prolonged intro, and as the song progressed, I waited for the beat to drop—when it finally did I was blown away. Hearing that bass live was otherworldly. Swoosh joined Tracey on stage during the middle of the set for his performance of “Just Do It.” Swoosh had phenomenal crowd engagement as he called “Swoosh” and the audience responded with “Just Do It.” This was an effective way to get the crowd more involved with their performance.
Tracey wrapped up the set with “Rain” as Swoosh danced and vibed on stage next to him. He was the best hype man and mirrored the energy the crowd was feeling in that moment.
Aminé Had No ‘Sh!t2luz’
After Tracey and Swoosh finished their setlist, there was an awkward 20-ish minute gap, which was longer than the typical intermission between acts. Aminé’s DJ tried to bridge that gap—that unbearable time when you are growing impatient from waiting for the artist you paid to see to come out. At first, the DJ distraction worked. He started playing mixes that were getting the crowd pumped up. From Drizzy to Cole to Riri (yes, pun intended. The DJ didn’t play that Aminé song, but rather Rihanna’s “B*tch Better Have My Money”). And like I said, initially it was effective. But after 15 minutes, the crowd started to get impatient. Luckily, that didn’t last long.
Not even five minutes later, after the crew finished setting up Aminé’s set—which featured his own mini Portland with Alberta Market, “The Best Tour Ever” logo, a replica of the Woodlawn Park sign, and a colossal statue of his dog Oliver—the man of the hour burst onto the stage. Of course, he was dripped out in his merchandise — wearing an ocean blue t-shirt repping 'The Best Tour Ever.'
The first song Aminé performed was a light-hearted and humorous track from his latest album, TWOPOINTFIVE, “Mad Funny Freestyle.” After this, every song was medley-styled. I had never been to a concert like this before, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The songs all transitioned smoothly and cleanly into one another. I would appreciate seeing more concerts styled like this. It provided room for Aminé to perform almost all of his songs, bettering the odds that everyone who attended would hear their favorite song(s). He sure showcased his bubbly personality by wishing everyone a Happy St. Patrick’s Day and then immediately stating, “I’m a little mad though, your river wasn’t that green when I came here today.”
As the show progressed, he took off his t-shirt to reveal a cherry red custom Chicago Bulls jersey with his name on the back and a double zero, much to the crowd's enjoyment. Keeping the energy in motion, he sang the single off of TWOPOINTFIVE, “Charmander.” Named after the fire-type lizard in Pokémon, this song is slick yet packs a punch. The bright light show mixed with him dominating his clever bars made for an extremely memorable performance. Though, the main highlights of his set were when he performed “Colors” into “Yellow” and “Spice Girl” into his cover of “Wannabe.” The smoothest transition throughout his whole set was from “Colors” into “Yellow.” His vocals were the best throughout his whole show and the beats meshed together was magic. “Spice Girl” is one of his most popular songs, so his performance of that was guaranteed to be a hit, but transitioning from that into “Wannabe” was genius—and a very pleasant surprise.
He tied the evening off by singing the song that shot him to stardom, “Caroline.” The crowd erupted and desired more, so Aminé delivered. He stayed on stage and performed “REELITIN” as his encore. Throughout the entirety of the show between songs he made it a point to display his message of self-love by stating “You’re beautiful,” to the crowd and having them reply with, “I know.” This would happen three times every time. He even brought a fan on stage who had been to his previous three tour dates in Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Chicago. When she got on stage, he had her sign the Chicago patch of his signature tour pants, a tradition he’s been doing for every tour since 2017.
Sources: Aragon Ballroom, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Cools.com, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Twitter, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Spotify, Twitter