Live shows at First Midwest Bank Amphitheater aren’t usually my cup of tea.
If I’m not sitting in the sectioned seating, I’m not privy to the energy of the show and thus relegated to the drunken parade of 18-year-olds in the lawn seats.
Well, last night, as J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive tour made its way to Chicago ‘burb Tinley Park, I decided to brave the lawn seats for the good of the article.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t head into Cole’s show expecting to have much to write about the next day. The undercard of the show was fairly standard. Compton-based YG played his radio hits, and Jeremih set the mood with his resume of R&B sex anthems.
Big Sean was dope, captivating the crowd with a setlist that included everything from ‘I Don’t Fuck With You’ to day-one tracks off Finally Famous to a Kanye West-less ‘One Man Can Change The World.’ Hell, Sean’s a big enough act that he could have headlined the show and his performance was equally as worthy.
But the show was stolen, and my money was justified, when J. Cole came on stage shortly before 9 PM.
Now, another reason why I’m not a big First Midwest fan is because it’s not a very intimate venue. It isn’t large in size per se, but the amphitheater’s layout gives off a very “big-concert” feel.
J. Cole cut right through that from the second he started performing ‘Intro’ before the melodic plea transitioned into second song, ‘January 28th.’ Any standard concert goer would have seen this as an extended intro – only for Cole to hop into the tracks that made him famous.
But that’s what sets J. Cole above the rest. He takes the road less traveled. No other rapper would even think to play their entire album from top to bottom, not in a city that brings out 22,000-plus expecting to hear mainly the bangers. And the best part about it is, he asked the crowd if it was cool if he shared that experience with us.
That was special.
2014 Forest Hills Drive was Cole’s life work realized, and he knows that it’s an album that has touched many beyond himself. I quickly realized that this tour was an homage to those who have been there since day one.
Though the overarching theme was Cole’s gratitude to his fans, he couldn’t go the night without giving love to the city that came out in masses for him on a Tuesday; bringing Jeremih back out for his encore and performing “Planes” in front of the animated crowd.
That was the icing on the cake for an incredible show from an extremely talented dude. Cole was worth the price of admission and then some.
For those who missed the show, throw it on your bucket list. But for now, you can indulge in some of my favorite moments below.