Vic Mensa thrills at mystery concert

Kieran Graulich
Vic Mensa performs at the Welcome Week Mystery Concert

The Mystery Concert on Thursday was an incredible display of noisy abandon and twisted juxtapositions. Every performer, Tei Shi, SOPHIE and Vic Mensa, showcased a sharp contrast in all of their sets, matched with an incredible energy. R&B newcomer Tei Shi, the concert’s opener, matched her intimate, spritely soprano with the booming, elephantine cadence of her backup band. Her voice reverberated throughout the Skirball Center for Performing Arts like an early morning haze, crescendoing into a thick wall of highs and lows: a stark contrast between the voice and the instrumentation. Her sound translated particularly well on stage — to the point where she had effectively won the audience over by the end of her set. Her voice, while light and relaxed, is certainly not lifeless. There was a warmness and swagger in the cadence of her voice that carried throughout the entire theater, captivating the audience for her entire set.

Whatever calmness there was in the air by the end of Tei Shi’s set was immediately expelled the moment SOPHIE came on stage. SOPHIE’s blend of booming bass with chipmunked sounds and vocals, mixed with odd drones and quirky sounds made his set an absolute spectacle. Often keeping the audience in anticipation for minutes at a time, any change to the beat or tone whatsoever made the audience go wild. SOPHIE knows how to musically punch you in the stomach and make you enjoy it; almost every bass drop or beat thrown out into the ether knocked the wind out of you.

For such a new artist, Vic Mensa has mastery over the stage, keeping the audience captive for every moment of his set, from his stunning rendition of his recent hit “U Mad?” to the two prerecorded jam tracks of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”  Arguably, the highlight of his set was his perfect marriage of his own energy with that of the audience’s on his cover of Chance the Rapper’s “Cocoa Butter Kisses.” Even as he burned through new material, Mensa had the crowd joining in and partying with him as he ruled the world from on stage. Mensa closed out his set by jumping into a crowd of strangers and collapsing on the floor, then promptly walking off the stage, ignoring the crowd’s plea for an encore.

Skirball’s Mystery Concert provides a venue for mysterious artists to make lasting impressions, and the lineup this year brought many new captivating voices
to light.

A version of this story appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 8 print edition. Email Kieran Graulich at [email protected]

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