Chicago rapper Saba came to Portland, Oregon on Saturday, May 5th. The concert was the first show in the last third of Saba‘s nationwide Care For Me Tour with Jean Deaux and Joseph Chilliams. The tour finishes up on May 19th in Toronto.
The show at Portland’s Hawthorne Theatre began with Jean Deaux at 9:00 PM. The intimate venue had minimal lighting and was packed full with fans both new and old. It was Jean Deaux‘s second time in Portland, and she delivered. She had the crowd following along and often clapping along to the beat. She flexed her high-pitched vocals and was not shy in showing off her impressive technical rapping skills.
30 minutes later was Joseph Chilliams, who immediately set the tone for his performance with his introduction.
“My name is Joseph Chilliams. Joseph like Joseph, and Chilliams like Williams but with a ‘CH,'” he said.
It was his first time in Portland, and it was evident that he didn’t take himself too seriously. He repeatedly stated that he was working on a project that is all about the Mean Girls movie. His performance was one of the single most entertaining opening acts I have seen on any tour. He brought humor, but wasn’t short on his rapping abilities. He delivered a series of endless, witty punchlines that continually left the crowd roaring. He had each member of the crowd engaged with his music, and left everyone with a grin on their face. Even with his unique swagger and comedic performance, no one was left questioning whether or not the young emcee could actually rap.
Joseph Chilliams‘ brother, Saba, hit the stage just before 10:30 PM. Saba came out to my personal favorite song of his, “BUSY/SIRENS.” Green smoke filled the stage as the fans filled the room with yells. He started with a calm vibe, but had already picked up the mysterious energy by the time the “SIRENS” half of the song came on. The Hawthorne Theatre already had an energy higher than I had predicted, but it was authentic and exciting. Saba asked the ladies in the room to shout, and then went into the second song on his Care For Me album, “BROKEN GIRLS.” He delivered each bar with a special effort while he proved how much this project meant to him.
“‘Care For Me’ is one month today. That shit kind of flew by,” he told the audience.
The young rapper played a couple more tracks, and then had one of the most genuine moments of the night. He told a brief story of how kids in Chicago would beat him up and he had to learn how to fight back. He then played “FIGHTER” amidst a sea of waving hands. The performance of this song felt rewarding, you could tell for a moment how proud he is of how far he came.
The night continued on with an exponentially growing energy. It became evident that no matter what he played, some of the crowd would know the lyrics. Throughout each song, the passion in his sharpened raps became more and more clear. He took his Portland fans through his discography with a much more potent enthusiasm than I would have expected. As he left, the “Saba” chants began.
“Portland y’all want to hear one more?” he said from backstage.
He burst out from behind the walls to perform his song “Westside Bound 3,” and Joseph Chilliams came out to perform his verse on the track. The bass shook the wooden floors in sync with the fans’ jumping feet.
“Thank you Portland, I’m Saba” were the last words the Chicago rapper said to the hundreds of fans in attendance.
All photos by Jensen Ocampo: jensenocampo.com
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