At 8:59 p.m., nearly an hour after scheduled show time, a DJ’s voice boomed from the speakers and directed the Fox Theatre crowd to “Make some (bleep)ing noise!”
A few seconds of a song blasted through the theater and then…silence.
With the houselights still up and nary an introduction, the stage curtain opened and there stood Gucci Mane, decked out in black and gold, chains and other glistening jewelry weighing down his neck and wrists, his newly slenderized torso on display.
Friday night at the Fox was a triumphant homecoming for the Atlanta rapper, who was released from an Indiana federal penitentiary in May after serving three years for federal drug and gun charges.
While Mane, 36, made a couple of Atlanta club appearances last month, this was his first official concert – and it included plenty of Gucci music along with, as advertised, plenty of “Friends.”
The past few days, Mane (aka Radric Davis) has publicly declared his sobriety and commitment to health; released “Everybody Looking,” his first full album in five years; and announced (via producer Zaytoven, who joined Gucci’s opening for a few plinks on a white baby grand piano that went untouched the rest of the night) a collaboration with Drake to be called “The 6’ers.”
His focused delivery throughout the two-hour-plus show indicated he’s taking his reform seriously and his frequent smiles showcased a guy who seems grateful to be back on a stage.
Here are three highlights of the night.
1. That guest list. OK, it initially appeared as if Mane’s time in prison came with a direct invitation to the C-list as a parade of rappers including OJ Da Juiceman, Young Dolph and Pee Wee Longway took turns on stage with a collection of generic rap songs. Their inclusion was in no way offensive, but their appearances usually led to fans climbing down from the seats they otherwise defiantly perched on throughout the show and taking Snapchat videos of themselves.
But, after a too-long string of Mane songs, Fetty Wap bopped out in baggy jean shorts and a white T-shirt to offer a couple of songs, including “My Way.”
With the crowd re-energized, 2 Chainz emerged in a black and yellow striped polo shirt and his trademark bandanna and provided the antithesis of Mane’s languid style with an assertive “Watch Out.”
And then, with the stage bathed green, Future arrived and raced across the stage as he delivered a thrilling “March Madness.”
That was the moment many in the audience started doing the math. If Future was here, that meant he had a night off from his tour with Drake, and Drake and Mane just announced a collaboration so…could it be? Indeed, the biggest star to come out of Canada since William Shatner and Justin Bieber caused a spike in the electricity in the room when he burst onto the stage in a show of support for his main man Mane (see what I did there?).
A potent “Energy” caused the Fox floors to tremble as fans bounced incessantly, and the photo op of the night occurred when Mane returned to the stage to perform “Back on Road” with Drake.
Now those are some high-wattage friends.
2. Mane is an insanely prolific artist and at times, it felt as if he was trying to squeeze every song he’s ever performed on or written into his set. Obviously there were several nods to the new album – “First Day Out Tha Feds” and the sticky, drawling beat of “No Sleep” were among the standouts – but fans mostly thrilled to the classics, often lighting up a substance or climbing over one another to get closer to the stage at the first familiar thumps from the DJ booth.
The best from last decade, “Icy,” “Lemonade” and “Freaky Gurl” (during which Mane’s lady, Keyshia Ka’oir, joined him onstage wearing a high-cut leotard emblazoned with a glittery “SEX”) were steered by Mane’s relaxed flow, while 2006’s “Go Head” exploded as an intoxicating rave-up. Teeth-rattling bass and a mesmerizing cadence colored “Trap House,” while Mane effortlessly plugged in lyrics over the musical backdrop of “Beat it Up.
3. He’s still got style. It isn’t necessarily expected that a rap star will make a trio of costume changes during a show (and Ka’oir had one of her own as well), but Mane is – expectedly and deservedly – proud to flaunt his new physique.
From his gold and black opening outfit to melon-colored “Miami Vice”-like pants paired with his shirtless upper body to an ensemble of white jeans, a black and white splattered jacket and banana-yellow shades, Mane proved himself to be catwalk ready.
If anyone doubted it, he’s back.