There’s something about concerts in the fall that make it the perfect season for concerts. Summer is too high, winter is too cold — fall is somewhere in between there. It could be nice, cool 60 to 70 degrees, maybe a slight breeze, and you’ve got the perfect weather for an outdoors concert. Most of the time at least, as other times (especially in the Midwest) you could have a mid-October concert outdoors and be struck with 40 degree weather and a heavy breeze. That was the scene for this Wednesday night in Columbus, Ohio as Kevin Gates rolled through town with his fall tour promoting his latest album, I’m Him, which is out now via Atlantic Records.
For this night, doors opened at 6:30pm, and the smart people brought blankets and many layers as Kevin Gates ultimately wouldn’t go on stage for about three more hours. Openers SDoT Fresh, Rod Wave, and YK Osiris did a great job getting the crowd ready for Gates, but when the house music shuts off and the lights go down around 9:30, you can feel the anticipation in the crowd. DJ Rod comes out, the screen behind him lights up with the BWA — Bread Winners Association — logo, as he runs across the stage once before disappearing and then emerging behind the screen and landing just above the screen with his required equipment.
Like clockwork, everyone lifts their phones up into the air to start (or continue) documenting their night. A few go down after a few moments, seemingly realizing that there was going to be a little bit more of a wait before Kevin Gates himself comes out. DJ Ron does his thing still, getting the crowd hyped and ready for the main event, even playing a select few tracks from Gates. The crowd definitely reacts, as they move around and throw their hands up ever so slightly, but as each song goes on you can see less and less of a reaction — simply representative of fans in the crowd beginning to save their cheers for Gates himself.
After about 15 minutes, DJ Ron instructs everyone to bring their phones back up and turn on their lights, as the house lights once again dim down and an introduction plays on the screen on stage. When Kevin Gates runs out on stage, smoke and pyrotechnics shoot out of the stage, ripping through “Great Man” as the ferocious opening to his set. During the song, he asks the sound guy to turn up his monitors, then ensures the crowd can hear him, and rips right back into the song as if nothing ever happened. The crowd didn’t even remotely seem to mind because, at this point, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen so many people hold their phones up in solidarity capturing glimpses of Gates.
After the song, he pauses to tell the crowd, “You know how I know y’all love me? You don’t gotta tell me, it’s cold as shit out here.” He then introduces himself to the crowd and says, “I love this shit, but I’ve suffered. Everyone in here, if you’ve ever suffered, the people that really love you suffer with you. I’ve been kicked in my ass a million times. I’ve had a million doors slammed in my face, but I’m in Ohio tonight.” This provokes a thunderous applause, and then the thanks the crowd for showing up and sounding amazing, before diving right back into his set with a performance of “Imagine That.”
Cell phones go up and down throughout the night, which is never a bad thing, as it means they fans are thoroughly enjoying themselves and want to remember their night. After performing “Paper Chasers,” he panders to the crowd a bit yelling out “O-H” and telling the crowd that “This is the most turnt crowd I’ve ever seen since I’ve been on tour.” If you weren’t already jumping around in the crowd, then you would be now as Kevin Gates goes through his set. Constant smoke and pyrotechnics come up from the stage throughout his night, as he also runs back and forth along the stage. Whether or not this is the most “turnt” crowd that he has had all tour is seemingly irrelevant, as Gates is determined to give it his all tonight — with the crowd reciprocating that right back.
Things change up a bit in the set, when he stops to tell the story of a meet and greet, in which a fan requested that he play “Hard For” — so he obliges and dedicates the song to all of his old fans. It’s the first change of pace of the night, as it’s a little bit of a slower track driven by an acoustic guitar. It gives the audience a big of a break, though it’s certainly only temporary. Kevin Gates tells a story between him and Piles, and also tells the men in the audience that they need to recite the lyrics to this next song to their significant others, which is his song with Piles titled “All Thee Above.’
While watching the show, it’s hard to not admire Kevin Gates ability to control and amaze his audience. His engagement with the audience is calculated just right, and they respond with a great cheer every time. Whether it be tracks like “Kno One,” “Stop Lyin,” or the huge sing-a-long that was “Luv Bug,” it’s clear that for this night at least, we’re all living in Gates’ world.
After performing “Love Bug,” Kevin Gates takes a second to apologize to fans for getting too turnt during the track, but quickly says “You know what, Ohio? I’m not sorry.” He then tells fans that he’s from Louisiana and that “Women down there say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, getting you to fall in love with them after eating their food,” then turns in an impressive performance of a new song, “Fatal Attraction.”
Afterwards, Kevin Gates candidly talks to the crowd about this part of the show and how he hates it. Gates tells the crowd that he’s not happy every day that he wakes up, sometimes suffering more from his depression than other days, and not wanting to live. He gets a comforting round of applause from the entire crowd, approving of his candidness while there’s undoubtedly those who relate to his words. He then plays the throwback of 2014’s “Perfect Imperfection,” before stopping to tell another personal story that’s integral to his story. This time telling the story of how his best friend shot him in the mouth, and despite not knowing whether it was on purpose or accident, he forgives him regardless, leading into a rousing performance of “4:30 AM.”
Kevin Gates recalls to the audience of the time he came to Ohio and only 10 people showed up. He’s clearly come a long way since then, as there’s thousands of people ion attendance tonight to support the star. He asks for crowd participation for this next song, even starting and pausing the intro until gets high crowd participation. When the crowd gets loud to his satisfaction, “Satellites” kicks off and everyone sings along to the first RIAA certified single of Gates’ impressive career.
The crowd of the night is incredibly eclectic, spreading across the spectrum of age and race, a testament to the power of music in general. But, especially for Kevin Gates, who has had huge singles and crossed into the mainstream world. For him, as he explains to the crowd towards the end of the show, it doesn’t matter when you became a fan. he’s grateful for the support nonetheless, jokingly comparing becoming a fan to drugs saying “Once you get started, you never quit it.”
The end of his set, as you would expect, contains the biggest singles from Kevin Gates to date, pushing through “Really Really” and “Two Phones,” as more smoke and pyrotechnics shoot out in perfect placement during the singles. After “Two Phones,” Gates takes a moment to ask the crowd if they can do a prayer with him. During this time, he prays that everyone gets home safe and that they get everything they ask for, “so long as they’re responsible with it” before perfuming “I Don’t Get Tired” and eventually sending the crowd home satisfied.
Kevin Gates has had a very tumultuous life, and it’s something he’s been very open about in interviews and even through his music. In fact, his new album even details some of his past and how hard he’s worked to become a better person. During his set, he plays songs from his entire catalog, which highlights the life he has lived to this point. Gates has been one of the more intriguing artists to watch over his career, and with his new album and tour, it seems like he’s never been better. He’s firing on all cylinders personally, musically, and with his live shows — culminating in a career that’s currently as impressive as it’s ever been.