T-Pain freshens up his classics for Welcome Week performance

Iconic hip-hop artist brings a seriously lively set to the Amphitheatre

hs-tpain-CourtesyUPC

T-Pain's performance was part of the University Programs Council's Welcome Week festivities. 

Courtesy University Programs Council | Courtesy University Programs Council

The McIntire Amphitheatre underwent one of its more interesting transformations Saturday night. As one of the most iconic structures on Grounds, its uses range from a study space to the location for the fall Activities Fair to the ideal place to eat dumplings — and occasionally, a concert. The Amphitheatre boasted a free show for students from hip-hop legend T-Pain Saturday night, a University Programs Council-sponsored event which helped kick off this year’s Welcome Week festivities.

The space was packed well before 9 p.m., with students filling the field and stone steps. They continued to pour in as the night progressed, resulting in what might have been the best turnout for a UPC concert since the J. Cole Welcome Week show of 2016. Those on the field pressed in towards the Amphitheatre’s stage, which was decked out with multi-colored lights and a complex sound system. 

T-Pain took the stage before 9:15, dashing into sight with a manic level of energy he would maintain the entire night. He immediately started the set with a few verses of “Roll in Peace (Remix),” before moving on to such unforgettable classics as “Booty Wurk (One Cheek At a Time)” and “Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’).” T-Pain kept the audience guessing by switching from song to song without playing many in their entirety, maybe in an attempt to avoid the redundancy of some of his music.

The crowd didn’t quite match the performer’s energy, but the students did their best to let T-Pain know they were enjoying themselves. Perhaps the reason for the unbalanced give-and-take stemmed from the fact that many audience members didn’t seem to know the words to T-Pain’s songs. As an artist whose famed peaked several years ago, he’s admittedly not as timely as J. Cole or D.R.A.M. T-Pain seemed to acknowledge this himself by playing samples from undeniable crowd-pleasers like “Turn Down For What” and “All I Do Is Win”— a DJ Khaled track which features T-Pain.

Though his performance might’ve come to the University a few years too late, T-Pain’s stage presence was timeless. The speed with which he dashed around stage made him appear years younger than 32, showing off countless dance moves with a youthful grin. His mixer stood at a table backstage and helped amp up the hype by counting down the beat’s drop for every track and dancing alongside the main performer.

One of the most impressive surprises of the night — or at least, impressive to those students who hadn’t seen T-Pain’s Tiny Desk Concert with NPR — was the sheer power of T-Pain’s singing voice. The “rappa ternt sanga” has a serious set of pipes, but his autotune-laden tracks hide or modify the vocals almost past recognition. He got to show off his singing ability on songs like “I’m N Luv (Wit a Stripper)” and “I’m Sprung,” both from his earliest album and both with a beautiful R&B undertone that shone through when he belted out their final notes. These were two of the few tunes he performed from start to soulful finish, counting on the audience’s recognition of his most classic tracks to carry him through to the end.

Perhaps most importantly, T-Pain was funny. He brought his own happy-go-lucky brand of humor and sincerity to the night, addressing the audience casually during rare breaks in his set. “Thank you for inviting me to your s—t,” he said at one point early in the show. “You really didn’t have to and I appreciate it.” 

T-Pain went on to make a plug for elwoodclothing.com in reference to the red plaid pants he was wearing, mentioning that they were the perfect fit to farting in and lectured the audience on their impatience to hear the most anticipated song of the night, 2007’s “Bartender.”

“You know I’m gonna do it,” he said to the eager crowd, adding that the more students shouted for it, the longer he would wait to play it. “Nobody tell T-Pain how to do what he does.”

When he did eventually play “Bartender” — though again, only the first part of the song — the crowd was at peak energy level. Even those who had only heard the name T-Pain were dancing along, caught up in the infectious sense of camaraderie the hip-hop artist had created. It was a enjoyable, simply fun event to herald in the Class of 2022, one last nod to the stress-free days of summer before the workload of the fall semester.

In one of the last songs before the performer promptly left the stage a little after 10 p.m., his mixer encouraged the crowd of students to take a simple chant — “T-Pain! T-Pain!” The audience had no problem complying.

Dan Goff is an Arts and Entertainment Editor for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at ae@cavalierdaily.com.

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