Tyler The Creator: Master of… Aristotelian Theater?

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Weight on his back foot, slight slump, Tyler stands at center stage aloof. “IGOR’S THEME” begins to play. Red Rocks Amphitheater erupts with noise from the crowd. It’s night, it’s cold, it’s over 5,000 feet, everyone has their jacket on at this open air venue. There is a blown up projection of Tyler on the backdrop of the stage, his head is blown up. It is all remarkably and classically Greek.

I’ve never really been a fan of concerts like this. They’re expensive, they’re crowded, and master quality streaming just sounds better. It wasn’t until this show that I really understood what live music could be, and why it has such power. At Tyler’s direction 9,500 people screamed, sang, and jumped. He told the entire audience that “[his] dick [was] on ice.” There were enough pyrotechnics to warm the entire space. None of that did much for me. It was all cool, but it wasn’t necessarily worth the price of admission. 

For much of the set I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I was having an incredibly emotional experience. It was beyond what I’d felt listening to Flower Boy and IGOR. It was beyond the music itself and beyond the crowd experience. Catharsis is the end goal of Greek tragedy, according to Aristotle in his work, Poetics. The purging of emotions such as pity and fear and the purification that follows resulting in renewal or restoration. Excessive passions and emotions are reduced and transformed by the art one consumes. 

We know each other pretty well, so I don’t feel weird about getting personal with you. Recently, I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety concerning a particular person with whom I had a particular type of relationship. I go to a tiny liberal arts school. I see her fucking everywhere. It’s weird, and for a while now it’s been weighing heavily on me. Any fan of Tyler knows that his work has always been concerned with the romantic. It would make sense then that his music would communicate to me like this. Often when I listen to it, it does. However, at this concert, I felt a purge of emotion exponentially more than any time I’ve listened to his music. 

The wind has been blowing the entire set. Tyler is visibly shivering. There’s nothing on the stage, except an occasional mic stand for a song at a time. This is Tyler’s show, but more than that, this is The Tyler Show. His gesticulations, body language, between-song statements, and general demeanor fill the relatively bland stage and emanate through the venue itself. It’s acting. It’s drama. It’s transcendent. It’s cathartic.

The beauty of Tyler’s concert was in his content, costume, and customs. The power, though, was in his performance. Tyler’s ability to reinforce the emotional sentiments of his music through physical action is nothing short of miraculous. His music is tortured and bursting with emotion, but it is the way in which he carries himself which sets his concert so far apart from any other live music I’ve ever seen. The performative and directed nature of the way he owns his venues is enough to rival Aeschylus, Euripides, or Sophocles. If you haven’t seen Tyler live, you have to. If you don’t think you like live music, you have to see Tyler live.

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