There was so much going on Thursday night. From all of the shows around town to Wicked (the musical), it was a hard decision regarding what to go to. Wait, no, that’s a lie. Machine Gun Kelly was in town and love him or hate him, I knew that that was the show I had to be at.
Willow (aka Willow Smith) kicked the evening off with a quick twenty-five-minute set featuring eight songs. As an opener for a larger-than-life arena show, I felt that Willow was easily able to captivate the already huge crowd in the Xcel Energy Center with ease. Willow is not your traditional pop star and although I had written her off as such, I realized during her brief time on stage that she is so much more than that. Her voice, like her song, has a sense of depth and true talent. At only 21 years old, there’s something old and weathered about her words and song composition and I mean that in the best way possible. Some people may say that Willow is famous just because of who her parents are (Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith) but her set on Thursday proved that she can hold her own and I truly think there is a bright future for this amazing vocalist and musician.
Set changes felt quick and, before I knew it, the one and only Avril Lavigne was taking the stage. I was excited as I was blown away by her intimate performance at The State Theatre back in September of 2019. Unfortunately, I think my expectations may have been too high. As soon as this pop-punk songstress took the stage, I felt that her vocals fell flat along with her overall performance. Don’t get me wrong, singing along to “Girlfriend”, “Sk8er Boi”, and the other six tracks she performed was super fun but I felt that her energy was just a bit lacking. More of her time was spent fidgeting with her hair and outfit (which I thought made her seem almost uncomfortable in an odd way) than actually interacting with the crowd which was super disappointing. Thursday night was her final date on this tour and I get that she is probably beyond worn down and exhausted but I just wish she would have given the excited audience more than she did.
Although Avril’s performance was a bit disappointing to me and the super nice couple sitting next to me who I ended up befriending throughout the show, my excitement level instantly skyrocketed as I saw the stage for headlining act Machine Gun Kelly start to take form. A slanted checkerboard riser took the place of the traditional stage and my thoughts instantly went to jealousy of anyone who could stand on that stage and not get sick from the optical illusion but I digress. It wasn’t long before the house lights went down and a video of a helicopter pilot started laying on the screens situated on both sides of the stage. That’s when the show started and the build of anticipation became really real. MGK’s signature pink helicopter flew through the audience with the spotlight on supposedly “looking for” the pink-haired legend before settling over a small offshoot of a stage near the back of the arena and pulling the one and only MGK out of a hole in the said stage. MGK then proceeded to fly through the crowd hanging from the helicopter while singing “born with horns”. Talk about a dramatic entranced. I couldn’t help but think about how over the top it all was but also how perfect it was.
Machine Gun Kelly is one of those “love them or hate them” acts. It seems as if there is really no in-between opinion here yet I feel myself to be super torn and found myself lost in my thoughts over it as I made my way home after the show on Thursday. Long story short, MGK started as a rapper, then, out of nowhere, connected with Travis Barker (drummer of Blink 182) and put out an absolutely genius pop-punk band in the middle of the pandemic which seemed to hit everyone (myself included) in just the right way. MGK continued with the pop-punk vibe with his new album “Mainstream Sellout” but, if I’m being honest, I haven’t listened to it. “Tickets To My Downfall” was a flawless album in my opinion and will probably remain in my top twenty albums of all time for a very long time (go ahead and judge me) and I just didn’t want anything to ruin that for me. Thankfully, MGK performed a perfect mix of tracks from both of these new albums while still paying homage to his rap days which caught a lot of the audience off guard but made my heart super full of admiration. MGK’s whole schtick is that he never gave up and I think him sliding in some of his old rap songs was his way of proving that.
This takes me to my one major complaint about the whole night– the complaining that MGK did on stage. The overall theme of the night was “kill the internet”. This was materialized as about halfway through a giant inflatable humanoid appeared at the back of the stage with a TV as a head. Eventually, the humanoid was “shot down” by the helicopter flying through the sky and fireworks aimed toward the man. Okay, you had to be there to understand and it was definitely quite the spectacle but it just got a bit old. Many songs were split up by Kelly telling the audience to not listen to what they hear on the internet and make their own decision on what they like and don’t like. Although I like this sentiment, it just felt old and, at times, felt like it was almost a pity party for MGK like “Everyone hates me but look at me now!”. It also got me thinking, just like every other celebrity out there, MGK would be nothing without the internet and the controversy that seems to follow him.
I saw MGK perform back in September of last year twice. The first time was at The Armory in Minneapolis and I felt like it was a fairly understated yet perfect show as he played through almost all of “Tickets To My Downfall”. The second time was at Riot Fest in Chicago just a few days after where he bashed Slipknot as they were playing on a different stage at the same time. To say I’m torn on my thoughts of MGK would be an understatement and the tear continued as I felt his show on Thursday night was a lot of smoke and mirrors but there were moments where I saw some true talent from him and his band shine. There was just a lot going on on stage from balls of fire, poofs of smoke, confetti, the helicopter, Mr. Internet, the titled stage– it was just a bit too much. I left his set on Thursday feeling even more confused about my feelings about this man and his overall performance.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, Machine Gun Kelly is one of those “love him or hate him” types of artists. I still don’t know which side of the fence I fall on and maybe it just depends on my mood and the day. One thing I can say for sure is that his performance at the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night was truly larger than life. There were moments that had me rolling my eyes but then there were moments where I was singing my little heart out along to every word with a giant smile on my face and anxiously awaiting what he would do or say next.