Bro, being famous is really hard when people on the internet make fun of you. That was one takeaway from rapper/rocker/complainer Machine Gun Kelly’s headlining performance Thursday night at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.
In front of about 14,000 screaming fans, Kelly offered a loud, garish, whiny and ultimately empty spectacle that felt like a combination migraine headache and hangover (with a case of dysentery on the side) for all but Kelly’s most faithful followers.
It would be easier to excuse the mess if Kelly was a hot-headed kid who just skipped college to blaze his way into the music industry. But he’s 32 and has spent the past decade establishing himself as a popular, if divisive, rapper and now pop-punk rocker while maintaining a solid sideline career as a film actor (“Bird Box,” “The King of Staten Island” and the Motley Crue biopic “The Dirt”).
The thing, is Kelly — who was born Colson Baker — is ultimately more famous for his fiancee Megan Fox than he is for his music. And, yes, people love to dunk on Kelly, but man he makes it easy. In addition to run-of-the-mill clown stuff like smashing a champagne flute onto his face during an afterparty (yes, this earned national headlines) to picking fights with the likes of Eminem, G-Eazy and (of all people) Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor.
Willow — daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett who drops her surname Smith as a performer — opened for a crowd much larger and more engaged than usual for a stage warmer. Like the headliner, she recently jumped on the pop-punk bandwagon. Avril Lavigne, queen of said genre, blasted through an eight-song set featuring her biggest hits (“Complicated,” “Sk8er Boi,” “My Happy Ending”) and a new one, “Bite Me.”
Soon after, Kelly aired a trailer for his new Hulu documentary “Life in Pink.” And then the show began with an awkward prerecorded bit about how Kelly thinks the internet put him in a box, a theme he returned to again (and again) throughout the show.
He appeared hanging from a pink helicopter “flying” across the length of the arena floor and landed on a stage seemingly designed by a stoned Hot Topic shift manager. From there, he performed for two hours, taking numerous breaks to smoke (both cigarettes and something else from what appeared to be a horn) and spew rambling monologues about finding your true self and how the internet is mean to him.
As a rapper, Kelly is fine (and by fine I mean adequate not exceptional), but he didn’t spend much time spitting lines Thursday. His pop-punk songs are also fine and benefit from the help of Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, Kelly’s mentor/producer. At the same time, many sound a whole lot like actual Blink-182 songs and there’s not enough else going on to set his music apart from hundreds of other Warped Tour-era bands from back in the day (“the day” peaked in the late ’00s to mid ’10s).