Travis Scott’s previous tours have conjured peyote-induced desert imagery and featured the rapper riding a huge mechanical bird — a knight perched atop his avian steed. His latest jaunt, in support of his third and strongest album, “Astroworld,” reimagines the defunct Six Flags AstroWorld theme park of Scott’s native Houston, but skewed perfectly to his liking.
His carnival of oddities sold out Capital One Arena on Thursday night, thrilling fans during roughly 80 high-octane minutes. The carousel and roller coaster affixed to the two stages communicated an explicit message true for every Travis Scott show: You’re in for a ride.
A screen at the far end of the arena became a portal into Astroworld, the gateway into Scott’s mind. The quick introductory montage was interrupted by none other than Scott himself, who emerged on the opposite stage to “Stargazing.” As both an album and live experience, “Astroworld” has the raw energy (and slight terror) of a hallucinogenic theme park — hence why Scott fastened himself into the carousel to perform “Carousel” and allowed fans to ride it throughout the evening.
Scott has a very clear idea of the world he wants to create. A digital butterfly with flaming wings? Check. Screens surrounding the stage with the words “Look mom, I can fly” in flames? Check. Aerial views of the heartland, oceans and volcanoes? Check. Even the most seemingly minute details can seem major at a Travis Scott concert.
With a lot of ground to cover with respect to his catalogue, Scott jumped between snippets of beloved older songs, such as “Quintana,” “Mamacita” and “Skyfall,” and used the instrumentals of others, such as “Lose,” as segues between action. Pyrotechnics emphasized the four of every four-count during the hook of “No Bystanders,” while the video-game-like, post-apocalyptic carnage on-screen was the perfect visual companion for the hellish surge of “Don’t Play,” from 2014’s “Days Before Rodeo.”
In his music and during his shows, Scott acts as the maestro directing the chaos. “I just wanna take you on a trip through my city,” he said before a three-song stretch honoring his hometown: “Astrothunder,” “R.I.P. Screw” (a tribute to the late pioneer of the chopped-and-screwed remix method) and the breezy “Houstonfornication.” And whenever it seemed like Scott had leveled off, he went a step further.
“We’re trying to shake the Capitol tonight,” he said ahead of the explosive “Upper Echelon,” from his 2013 debut, “Owl Pharaoh.” Scott demanded the maximum from his audience, so it was only fitting that he exuded the same energy. Strapped into a roller-coaster car crawling back and forth between stages, his performance of “Antidote” got so intense that his voice, sans autotune, grew hoarse. Undeterred, he unleashed a scream of adrenaline just moments later.
As impressive as his endurance was to behold, it was outshined by the closer: “Sicko Mode.” The three-part record has snowballed into one of his highest-charting singles, and Scott, ever the provocateur, matched it with animated images of children vomiting.
“Y’all know I don’t follow suit,” he said during the song’s second act. And it’s that sense of rebellion, coupled with his penchant for crafting beautiful mayhem, that has cemented him as one of the most electrifying performers of the moment.