REVIEW: T.I. at Summerfest

Since the announcement of his show replacing Ludacris’ time slot at the U.S. Cellular Connections Stage, T.I. at Summerfest has been a standout on paper for some time looking at this year’s lineup. Understandably, that brought fans out in droves to one of the newer stages on the grounds, effectively using all of the space that came with the layout redesign. With an eager crowd, and plenty of material in his catalog, T.I. delivered a relatively shorter but hit-filled set on Friday night.

The main set from the Atlanta-centric trap music pioneer read like a greatest hits collection; opener “Top Back” fed right into breakout hit “Rubberband Man”, which shortly segued into “24’s”, and suddenly many came to the realization that the self proclaimed “King of the South” has more in his arsenal than you may have remembered.

While there was ample time between the announcement of his set and Friday night, in some ways it still felt like a fill-in performance slot. There wasn’t a stage show, other than the classic two turntables and a microphone. T.I. came out dressed in a maroon jumsuit, of which the top half would eventually be shed, and was only backed by his DJ and a lone hypeman. For a rapper who once proclaimed “who got a flow and a live show better than mine?”, it would have to come down to his performance. Thankfully, he delivered with plenty of memorable tracks and an appreciative energy for his career.

Another aspect of T.I.’s career that seemed to fall to the back burner was the number of hit records that he’s been on with other artists. A portion of the back half of the set made light of this, though, with a collection of feature-heavy records with a live performance of T.I.’s verse. From Ace Hood’s “Bugatti” to “Live Your Life” with Rihanna, and the Justin Timberlake-featured “Dead And Gone”, there were enough records to make you realize he’s been around some of the biggest stars in the world for his hit singles. The medley highlighted all of those cameos, allowing for the show to include some of his biggest releases.

The close of the show around the 50 minute mark felt a little unnatural, however. After that medley of hits, the rapper left the stage, seemingly for the crowd to come back for an encore. Ultimately, after a few minutes, T.I. returned for 2014’s “About The Money” which had the crowd moving, either up and down if you were in the bleachers, or for an early exit for some on the sides of the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage. It would be hard to blame them; the show had drawn incredibly well for the U.S. Cellular Connections Stage area. However, after the lone encore track, The house stayed dark as T.I. and his hypeman departed, leaving only a DJ on stage for a few moments. While fans were unsure if that meant a second encore track was coming, it took some time before the house lights came on, signaling the true end of the show. We’ll never know if there was a miscommunication backstage or if that was the intended finish, but it did have a feeling of leaving on an awkward note. Whatever the case, T.I. had at the very least checked all the boxes for a memorable show.

It would be hard to find a spot within T.I.’s show on Friday night that was a true lull. When you look at the sheer number of successful records that he’s been involved with, the set was filled with both big singles and nostalgic tracks that were still popular with the massive crowd. Not only did T.I. entertain with his set, but he took you from his early career to the present day without feeling dated. As trap music is at an all time high in popularity, T.I. showed on Friday that he was one of the first to do it at a major level, and reminded you that he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

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