Review: 'First Class' rapper Jack Harlow proves to be humble and cocky in Minneapolis concert
Oct 1, 2022
Guest appearances by singer/rapper Bryson Tiller and Timberwolves' D'Angelo Russell elevated the show. October 1, 2022 — 1:40am
Jack Harlow is hip-hop's current It Guy. He's been to the top of the pop charts, on the cover of Rolling Stone and on Forbes' 30 Under 30 list. He's starred in a Tommy Hilfiger campaign and a KFC spot and attended the Met Gala twice. His hit "First Class" was crowned song of the summer at MTV's VMAs. He's set to star in a remake of the movie "White Men Can't Jump" and next week he'll co-host "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." Harlow is tall, curly and charismatic. And he packed the Armory in Minneapolis on Friday night. As he says in his song "Dua Lipa": "I sold them basements out, let's do arenas." Demand dictates that he should have been at Target Center or Xcel Energy Center but he ended up at the sold-out Armory with 8,400 amped fans after packing the much-smaller Fillmore Minneapolis in November. Never mind that the song "Dua Lipa" has nothing to do with the famous pop star other than to use her name to get curious pop fans to pay attention. That is what Harlow is accomplished at in concert — getting you to pay attention. His manner is easy, flirty and a tad mischievous — perfect for these meme-able, social media times. In concert, he talked more than any other rapper on the planet, sharing how he lost his virginity, explaining the pressure to not be a one-hit wonder and recounting his previous visits to the Twin Cities (including the Soundset 2018 fest). A rare rapper who goes by his real name, Harlow proved to be a skillful MC, with a crafty cadence, fast but clear flow and a flair for a clever bar. Bolstered by a three-man band, his music felt more dynamic live than on his recordings, which recall the vibey, laidback nonchalance of Drake. The more vibrant sound didn't make his content any more compelling, though, as he mostly boasted about achievements in his career and the bedroom. At 24, Harlow was an appealing mix of humble and cocky, both in song and conversation. He seemed humbled and genuinely moved to bring out some of his older Louisville homeboys — singer/rapper Bryson Tiller, who threw down two jams, and Timberwolves guard D'Angelo Russell, who threw an alley oop pass that teammate Taurean Prince dunked on a basket onstage. The 6 foot 3 Harlow appeared in the 2022 NBA Celebrity All-Star game. As a stage prop, he had a basket affixed to a faux garage, in which his band played. Harlow handpicked three concertgoers to shoot hoops, offering prizes if they made a bucket. Two women swished their first attempts. Evan, the third contestant, missed on all three tries. Then the Wolves players did their thing — and, in the end, everyone got a prize, including Harlow, who was gifted a Wolves jersey from Russell. Donning the Wolves shirt over his white turtleneck and denim bell bottoms, Harlow was on fire for the rest of his 90-minute set, doing "Luv Is Dro" with Tiller, the jazzy groover "Movie Star," the vibey "Already Best Friends" and even a taste of "Industry Baby," the No. 1 Lil Nas X hit on which Harlow is featured. Harlow demonstrated his everyman relatability, stopping in mid-song when a concertgoer near the stage was apparently having issues (he didn't re-start until he got a thumbs up from the fan) and playfully squirting the crowd with a garage hose (a few prepared front-row fans retaliated with squirt guns, but he politely warned "Let's not make this a habit"). Sometimes Harlow disappointed by cutting a few numbers short, notably his breakthrough 2020 hit "What's Poppin,'" the night's penultimate piece. But he had everybody singing along to the finale, "First Class," his Tik Tok-propelled No. 1 hit that pretty much described the way he's flying these days. Opening the concert were the Homies, a hyped-up hip-hop crew from Louisville, and City Girls, the galvanizing Miami rap duo who delighted fans with "Jobs" and "Twerkulator." Jon Bream has been a music critic at the Star Tribune since 1975, making him the longest tenured pop critic at a U.S. daily newspaper. He has attended more than 8,000 concerts and written four books (on Prince, Led Zeppelin, Neil Diamond and Bob Dylan). Thus far, he has ignored readers’ suggestions that he take a music-appreciation class.