November 7, 2021
The Fillmore Charlotte came alive Halloween night with eager fans desperately attempting to find close parking to join the growing line for Isaiah Rashad’s concert. The general admission line stretched well past the venue, wrapping around the block down NC Music Factory Boulevard. The inaudible chatter of conversation pervaded the brisk October air as the young and energetic crowd poured inside after Covid protocol and safety checks. Top Dawg Entertainment’s Ray Vaughn could be heard outside the venue, further increasing the eagerness to get inside.
It’s been five years since Rashad’s last album, The Sun’s Tirade, and four since the accompanying headlining tour. So his musical return with The House Is Burning and Lil Sunny’s Awesome Vacation Tour has been highly anticipated by his fans everywhere, with Charlotte continuing the trend of a large turnout.
Once South Carolina rapper Childish Major took stage, an exhilarated crowd filled the entire venue. He performed several songs from his most recent summer release, Thank you, God. For it all, and even teased unreleased music toward the end of his set. He bounced across the stage vigorously shaking his dreads (once his costume wig fell off), often calling out to the crowd to move with him. “Disrespectful” had the entire crowd bobbing to the trap 808s and singing the catchy hook.
Rashad walked out to “Darkseid” in a simple black tee, camouflage pants, and red bandana, and was immediately greeted by cheering supporters. A sea of phones lit up the dark theater, and the bass felt like a heartbeat pounding through the floor. A haunting image of a house consumed by flames displayed on the back screen behind him.
“What am I supposed to do outside but get rich? / Work too hard, but boy, don’t floss too hard and get yo’ wig split,” Rashad recited as the crowd rapped along. He gave us his all from the moment he stepped on stage, from the cadence of his words to the quick hand movements synchronized to his flow. His fans reciprocated the energy, delivering thunderous lyrics almost as loud as Rashad’s. “Darkseid” was an ideal opening track. Having left rehab, the track speaks to his rebirth and sobriety that was well documented in an interview with The Fader.
After the introductory track, Rashad laid some ground rules before continuing the show by insisting on respectful behavior, especially toward women, and to ultimately have fun. After asking the number of first-time attendees, he was awestruck by the number of fans who came out. Rashad referred to his concert as a “sing-a-long,” which was excellent foreshadowing of the rest of the performance.
The Fillmore’s unique theater complemented Rashad’s performance. The historic textile mill venue offered a laid-back vibe that exuded throughout his set. Its dark interior segmented by lofty pillars provided an intimate frame that accompanied Rashad’s more somber moments during the show. Iridescent chandeliers caught rays from stage lights often, producing additional luminescent visuals during his songs.
He performed favorites from The House Is Burning, including “9-3 Freestyle” and “R.I.P Young,” before transitioning to The Sun’s Tirade with “Wat’s Wrong.” Although this tour is on the back of his latest album, he gave diehard fans many beloved songs from his critically acclaimed 2016 album. Staying true to his artistry, Rashad switched between quick hard-hitting deliveries and his half-murmured, almost indistinguishable Southern drawl.
The succession of songs in his setlist weaved a condensed life story through his three albums. Every song connected to each stage of his personal development: coming of age, juggling his dreams and fatherhood, and overcoming his substance addiction and depression. It provided a well-rounded concert experience with carefully placed highs and lows.
Rashad’s magnetically poetic production, “Silkk da Shocka,” flowed behind the lightheartedness of “Free Lunch.” The burning house visual behind Rashad slowly took concertgoers through the inflamed home, showcasing a severely damaged interior. This particular performance moved fans to sway softly. Cell phones throughout the crowd illuminated the darkened theater with a soft glow. Rashad executed a strikingly emotive delivery, tightly grasping the mic with both hands while rapping with closed eyes. Choir-like voices filled the air throughout the entire song, becoming more vociferous during the heart-wrenching hooks.
Rashad brought back Ray Vaughn to perform their song, “Top Shottas,” towards the end of his set. He effortlessly switched gears once again to liven the mood and end the concert on a high note. It wouldn’t have been a Zay concert without a moving performance of “Heavenly Father.” He ended the show by giving all the hits for the crowd to move and mosh to, including “Wat U Sed,” “Lay Wit Ya,” “From Tha Garden,” and an encore performance of “Headshots.”
As he gracefully exited the stage, the final visual on the screen was another still of the burning house front. Except this time, only small patches of embers were left slowly burning. It was a befitting metaphor to end the night with as Rashad himself has risen from the ashes of his own self-destruction, reborn from the struggles he’s overcome these past five years.
Watch the music video for “THIB” from Isaiah Rashad‘s latest album The House Is Burning.