Life Underwater: A Review of Vince Staples’ The Life Aquatic Tour at Showbox Sodo

[Photo courtesy of Vince Staples’ Twitter]

Vince Staples first put word out about his Life Aquatic Tour back in November, giving dates with a single poster. That poster depicts Staples alongside longtime collaborator and opener Kilo Kish, dressed in the uniform from Wes Anderson’s film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The imagery singlehandedly drew me in, as I’m obsessed with Vince and Wes Anderson (say whatever you want; he makes cute films). But for the past three months, I could not figure out what Staples and The Life Aquatic had in common.

Monday night finally arrived, and when I arrived at Showbox Sodo, Vince had clips from Anderson’s film playing on three screens next to each other on the stage. No sound though, and I caught glimpses as I tried to make my way closer to the front for Kilo Kish.

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Photo by Mary Robins

Kish came on right at 9:00 p.m., and performed the sixth iteration of her debut record, Reflections in Real Time. To my delight, she pretty much played the entire record from front to back, minus a few songs at the end. ‘Reflections’ sounds like a musical at times, and she performed quite a few tracks with matching dance numbers and acting bits. On top of that, behind her were mini art films to accompany each track. To put it lightly, I was living for her performance.

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Until some white dude shouted, “Who is this black b****?”

Crowds at concerts are always interesting, but who comes to Vince Staples shows always surprises me. This was my second time catching Vince Staples, and compared to last year, he brought probably double the amount of white boys to the yard. And in particular, this white man was just talking about how well he knew Vince’s music before Kish came on. If he knew Vince’s music so well, then he’d know Kish is on two tracks from Summertime ’06; one with her own verse. Beyond that, is that all Kilo Kish will ever be to white men? Some “black b****” whose art transcends what fratty guys can understand, and therefore they attack her? I hope not.

Vince came out shortly thereafter, and The Life Aquatic theme began to make a little more sense. The three screens that were playing the film earlier began to play clips of sea life shot underwater. At first it doesn’t sound like it would match Staples’ music, but it complemented it so well. The production in general was just incredible—Vince plays his extremely well produced music loud, understands the value of lighting, and has a vision he’s able to carry out.

sohbzoiVince ran through favorites from Prima Donna and Summertime ’06, but to my disappointment, skipped “Dopeman.” That’s my favorite song by Staples of all time. (It was my #1 most played song of 2016 on Spotify. It’s a banger. Put it back on the setlist, please.)

One of my favorite portions was when he played “Little Bit of This,” “Smoke & Retribution,” and “Ghost” back-to-back-to-back. I wasn’t expecting him to play one of those as they’re all songs he’s featured on, let alone doing them one right after another. And honestly, there’s nothing more fun than screaming, “If you ain’t got no money, I ain’t got no time” the way he says it at the beginning of his verse on “Smoke & Retribution.”

It wasn’t until towards the end of the show that I began to fully realize why it’s called The Life Aquatic, beyond the obvious visuals. During “Hands Up,” Staples told us to put our hands up. So there we were: a bunch of white people with our hands up as red and blue lighting flickered across Showbox Sodo. Honestly, it made me really uncomfortable, as that is most likely a situation I will never be in again, along with a lot of other people in that venue.

The guy has toured a lot; he knows who comes to his shows. Last time I saw him, he used little to no lighting, and let his music take center stage. It affected me in that setting, as well, because you had to listen to what he’s saying. Vince raps about growing up in Long Beach, where he’s literally seen dead bodies in alleyways. Most people who show up to his shows do not understand what that’s like (myself included).

Through The Life Aquatic, Vince Staples forces the audience to experience life underneath the surface, and into the darkness of the deep ocean—being, the world he is from. I’ve always thought Staples was a genius, but this increased that tenfold.

He ended his set with the scintillating “Blue Suede” before coming back for three more for the encore. He has a ton of dates left through the beginning of April, so if he’s coming to a town near you, be sure to scoop up some tickets. This is one you don’t want to miss.


ANNA KAPLAN | If u ain’t got no money I ain’t got no time! | KXSU Music Reporter

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