As an ACL Fest act, Lil Wayne was probably best described as a one-man party.
Lil Wayne, better than any of the actual ACL headliners this year, represented the “collective unconscious” theorized by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. unified a sprawling crowd in Zilker Park on Saturday night, a charismatic trickster connecting a mass of humanity to their universal soul. He was a good-natured vessel through which drunk and high college students could — whether they realized it or not — channel an instinctual desire to turn up, a desire that has echoed through time. Tunechi as archetype, poppin’ ’em like Orville Redenbacher.
But nah, it was probably the one-man party thing.
Lil Wayne (added to the second-weekend lineup after Childish Gambino canceled because of an injury) was destined to excite. He’s a modern hip-hop icon: a rapper with the hits, the staying power, the pop cultural impact and the intergenerational reach to feel like a life event for a fest-goer. “Tha Carter V” just came out. Fans bled out of the generally accepted boundaries of the HomeAway stage, chanting “Weezy” as the sun went down. Their heads and shoulders, as seen on the big screens, seemed to roll from side to side in unison, like a rainbow-colored parachute in an elementary school gym.
Really, all that needs to be said is that the man showed up in skinny jeans and moon boots, he lit one up on stage and the audience knew every word the whole hour. They were prepared to ball until they one day would fall. They exhorted their DJ to go, because he was their DJ. They had money, and they knew it.
“I ain’t (expletive) without you,” Lil Wayne said in between songs. Several times, he urged the crowd to cheer for themselves.
Amid the good vibrations, sound problems played spoilsport. The pulsing synth-pop of Scottish band Chvrches crept into the area, which was already swimming in Tunechi’s own throbbing bass. And no one has ever accused Lil Wayne of being a crisp elocutionist. More than one chant of “turn it up” erupted in the cheap seats.
But when Tunechi took his shirt off, a woman behind me screamed “The Lord is good!” There’s only so much that hearing all the words matters. “Lollipop” took the world back to 2008, and you felt part of something bigger (and juicier) than yourself with every Weezy hip thrust. The rapper played the part of Energizer Bunny on “The Motto,” which could have delighted more only if Drake rappelled down from the rafters. And yes, Weezy tore into a final-stretch, rapid-fire “A Milli” like it was a succulent ribeye.
Lil Wayne brought his kids out on stage before the night was done. Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” played when he disappeared into the wings. The set wasn’t a technical spectacle or a dazzling display of prowess. When the core of your being is tapping into the VIP section of the universe, though, it’s all love.
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