Playing hard-to-get worked out well for Post Malone in the Twin Cities. After his first of two Xcel Energy Center concerts Thursday night, though, the breakout hip-hop/pop star is still pretty hard to get.
The tattoo-faced, grill-toothed singer and rapper from Dallas finally landed back in town for his first local headlining concert since his 2017 song “Rockstar” made him just that. A sign the St. Paul date was way overdue, a second show was added for Friday night based on ticket demand.
Malone, 24, thus arrived in the league of Garth Brooks and Elton John as acts to play two-nighters at a local sport venue over the past year — not that much of his young, phone-wielding audience even knows who those old dudes are.
The 14,000 fans on hand Thursday certainly know Ozzy Osbourne now, since the prince of darkness paired up with the current king of Auto-Tune for “Take What You Want,” a surprise hit that’s one of four tracks from Post’s new album, “Hollywood’s Bleeding,” sitting in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart — a historical feat.
With all his success, though, he has also faced ample backlash. Many hip-hop purists have accused him of appropriating the music, while others have just accused him of not being very good.
If you didn’t overthink it, Thursday’s performance was good enough. Dressed in a cool button-down shirt covered with musicians’ police mug shots (Elvis, Prince, Sinatra, etc.), the curly-headed star charmed with a surprisingly humble persona, and he brought along an impressive production with a long runway stage with a nifty moving overhead lighting rig.
For an act only a half-decade into his career, he sure came armed with a high number of hooky hits, too, enough to have fans singing loudly from the second song “Better Now” to the finale run of “Rockstar” and “Congratulations.”
“I sing a lot of sad songs,” Post said almost apologetically early in the set. Even the downers such as the new hit “Goodbyes” were greeted enthusiastically by the fans, though.
If you looked behind the curtain of Auto-Tune and prerecorded vocals, though, the concert was full of holes.
As he’s gotten more rich and famous, Post Malone’s lyrics have turned to the most rote and unrelatable of rap music subjects: being rich and famous.
He rapped about riding a yacht and wearing Versace boxers in the breezy new tune “Saint-Tropez” early in the show, and later on about rolling in a “Lambo” (Lamborghini) while still complaining about hard knocks in “Candy Paint."
The latter also exemplified just how unimaginative and juvenile many of Malone’s lyrics are: “I love paper like I’m Michael Scott / I can do things that your man cannot / Slide boy comin’ down, damn I’m hot.”
That weakness also hit home near the end as he delivered the utterly biteless “Spider-Man” soundtrack hit “Sunflower” with Swae Lee, who spent most of his opening set rapping along lazily to prerecorded vocals; at least Post put a little heart in his tape-accompanying duties.
One of the 2010s’ biggest breakout acts really needs to join the 21st century, too. With an evenly split crowd gender-wise, it seemed a shame that many of Thursday’s songs such as the new “Enemies” were confrontational and condescending toward women, an old-school rap trait that other arena headliners have mostly left in the past (Drake, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar).
Post did display a decent amount of versatility as the show blazed on. He became a full-on pop singer with giddy results in the new would-be hit “Allergic.” Known for his Bob Dylan tattoo and love for the mystical hippie-rock band Fleet Foxes, he also made a convincing folk singer when he pulled out an acoustic guitar for “Stay.”
Most compelling of all, his delivery of “Paranoid” and “Take What You Want” mid-set — the latter with Ozzy’s taped vocals and ample pyro piped in — showed he can be a powerful singer, almost with a bravado and range on par with Bono. Look him up, too, kids.