Snoop has his weed and Pusha T has his crack, but Future seems to prop up an entire pharmaceutical industry. The Atlantan rapper started his career on uppers, full of peppy, poppy tracks set in outer space, but, following a failed relationship with R&B star Ciara, seemed to get ever more earthbound, lacing his lyrics with downers such as Xanax, Percocet and codeine alongside the coke and ecstasy.
This arena show mirrors the mood swings and energy spikes associated with such improvisational drug use. Building up smoothly with a run of tracks from his recent self-titled album, there is a tremendous body high as he segues from Bugatti into Same Damn Time, circle pits of Off-White-wearing fans moshing with their phone torches on.
A rollercoaster rhythm sets in, where tracks build, drop and disappear, often even before reaching the second verse. A quartet of male backing dancers emerges, and whereas support artist Stefflon Don’s female dancers embrace the vogue for thickness, by contrast Future’s have rap’s fashionable rake-thin teenage silhouette. Their mime artistry during Move That Dope – cooking, packing and shifting drugs across the stage, dressed appropriately in all white – is impressively vivid, and any suggestion of boyband cheesiness is further diminished by simulations of lean drinking and the spasms of an overdose. There are further pleasures, not least the funny absurdity of thousands of people shouting, “I just fucked your bitch in some Gucci flip-flops,” a line that sums up Future’s amoral, distracted attitude to sex.
The energy falters during tepid guest spots from Rich the Kid and Wizkid, though they do give a flagging Future a chance to recharge. On record, he is often Auto-Tuned into pretty psychedelia, and rarely visits the gravelly end of his register; it gets an urgent, explosive airing on Fuck Up Some Commas. But fewer and fewer bars get finished thereafter, and you sense that even the moshpits are longing for a bit of longer-form lyricism. Mask Off may be one of the tracks of the year, but mostly because of its torpor, which doesn’t play so well on stage. And the comedown truly kicks in on the closing March Madness, which offensively uses real drone-bomber footage of exploding buildings to signify how lit everything is.
The last image the screens show is of a traumatised child soldier, while the dancers pop the last of their moves. As a symbol of the dissociative power of drugs, money and fame, it is truly potent.