Lil Nas X turned a small catalog (to date) into a big show as he opened his first-ever concert tour on Tuesday night (Sept. 6) at the Fox Theatre in Detroit.
Over 65 minutes, three acts and more than a dozen songs, the Long Live Montero Tour production was designed to dazzle — no surprise, really, to anyone who’s seen the Georgia-born hitmaker’s extravagant performances for awards shows and other events.
It was designed to be, as he wrote in the Playbill-style program handed out to fans, “a play about me, starring me as me, with music by me…about my journey, what I’ve been through, me being out of breath while performing and my aspirations to continue on my path in life.”
Coach creative director Stuart Evers added in his own note that “the looks we created together explore tensions between past, present and future…a reflection how inspiring individuals like Montero (Hill, Lil Nas X’s birth name) are defining (and redefining) our American story for today — and a celebration of the optimism for the future we share.”
That high concept was acted out by Lil Nas X and eight dancers with an elaborate video production on a three-panel screen behind the stage.
The show, which started an hour after the announced 7:30pm time, moved briskly from segment to segment, narrated by The Wizard of Naz, a woman whose image was beamed onto the curtain between the show’s three acts, while the instrumental music and some voices, including Doja Cat’s feature on “Scoop,” were all recorded to track.
Introduced as “one of those special souls,” Lil Nas X got things started alone on stage with “Panini,” sporting the first of six outfits — shirtless with gold pants — before the dancers joined him for some precise and athletic choreography.
Production numbers with titles such as “A Visit From a Friend” and “Pure/Honey” flitted between songs from his EP (7) and 2021 album Montero, and the selection was heavy on big hits — “Old Town Road,” which was paired with “Rodeo,” “Sun Goes Down,” “That’s What I Want,” “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” — but also slotted in deeper cuts such as “Don’t Want It,” “Tales of Dominica” and “Lost in the Citadel.”
Lasers and smoke jets accented a few of the songs, while Lil Nas X donned a pair of giant butterfly wings briefly during “Call Me By Your Name” — after which scores of animated Lil Nas X butterflies flitted around the video screen.
At the end of Act Two, an elaborately staged short film titled “You Are Going to Hell” addressed the spiritual homophobia he encountered in his life.
The emphasis, however, was on performance and precision, whether it was the cowboy-themed routine of “Old Town Road”/”Rodeo” or the exuberant expositions of “That’s What I Want” and “Scoop.”
He reminded the Detroit audience a couple of times that this was his first-ever tour, and during “Down Souf Hoes” ordered the crowd to “get the f*** up and shake your ass or you’re gonna be escorted out of the building.”
He was loose enough to crack, “Who’s of legal age here and wants to f***” before quickly adding “no, no, that’s a joke” and following up with a self-effacing borscht-belt styled “What’s the deal with airline food?”
“Industry Baby” closed the main set and “formal” part of the show in a muscular, full-length rendition while confetti blasted over the crowd’s heads, and Lil Nas X encored with the recent “Star Walkin’,” which was received as enthusiastically as any of the evening’s other songs.
The Long Live Montero Tour continues Wednesday night (Sept. 7) back at the Fox Theatre and continues with 20 more shows — including an Atlanta homecoming Sept. 27-28 — through Oct. 23 in San Francisco. The seven-date European leg of the tour begins Nov. 8 in Amsterdam.
Lil Nas X’s full opening night setlist included:
“Tales of Dominica”
“Sun Goes Down”
“Old Town Road”/”Rodeo”
“Dead Right Now
“Don’t Want It”
“That’s What I Want”
“Lost in the Citadel”
“Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”
“Down Souf Hoes”