There were flashing police lights, wailing sirens and yellow crime scene tape at Chris Brown’s concert in Tampa Friday night, but it was all part of the show — videos projected on stage during his performance of Yellow Tape, on which he sings he’s “battling my demons, I’m the only one who sees.”
Less than 24 hours after being arrested in West Palm Beach on a felony battery warrant stemming from his last visit to Tampa, when Brown is accused of punching a photographer at an Aja nightclub afterparty, he was on stage performing at the MidFlorida Amphitheatre for a nearly sold out crowd.
Brown didn’t make any mention of his brush with the law a night earlier, but to be fair, he didn’t say much of anything at all. After performing Questions, his third song of the night, he shouted “Tampa!” and thanked the crowd for being there, including the ones “up on the grass.”
He asked to hear the women cheer, he asked to hear the fellas cheer, then seemed like he was maybe going to say something else before saying, “Man, I ain’t got to keep talking,” and launching into his 2016 hit Party. And that was about as talkative as it got.
With a dozen backup dancers, who along with Brown treated the multi-level stage setup like a jungle gym and climbed all over it, it was a showcase of impressive moves. Brown still dances better than most, spinning and rocking in front of projections of swirling galaxies and orange deserts and, at one point, some highly suggestive cartoon peaches and lemons during Juicy Booty.
Sometimes he sang, sometimes he danced along to a recorded track of his own voice singing.
His female dancers performed one song wearing trench coats over lingerie, before losing the trench coats and showing a lot of skin for the final third of the show, around the same time Brown pulled off his shirt to sing in just his jeans and tattoos for the rest of the night.
Earlier in the day, the show’s promoters and Brown himself took to social media to assure fans that despite the arrest, the concert was not canceled.
And the massive crowd that showed up Friday night was a reminder that, despite his problematic history, Brown himself is not “canceled” either, not in the Twitter jargon, Urban Dictionary, New York Times style section "everything is canceled” sense.
It has been almost a decade since Brown pleaded guilty to the vicious beating of his then-girlfriend Rihanna, and he’s since been in court for punching people and beating up a former manager and an arrest on charges that he held a woman at gunpoint. Last month, a restraining order was issued against Brown — at least the third restraining order he’s faced — after a woman accused him of stalking and striking her.
Many, many people showed up to the MidFlorida Amphitheatre on Friday, braving the messy, rain-soaked mud hole of a grass parking lot (by the way, can we talk about that parking lot later, MidFlorida Amphitheatre?).
There were children, some boredly dancing with their parents, and others who’d been dropped off and knew every word of Chris Brown songs that came out when they were 2. In one row of Section 16 sat three generations of women from one family.
There were grown folks who got dressed in button-down shirts and tight Friday date-night dresses and danced in the aisles before the show started. There were younger guys in Reef flip flops with jorts, and guys wearing impeccable copies of the sneakers Michael Jordan wore in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA finals when he played with the flu.
There was a beautiful couple in beautiful dad hats, and the woman was wearing a hockey jersey like a dress in what seemed a very ‘90s way. There was a guy in a backwards real-tree camouflage cap, who wore his sunglasses at night, and laughed really hard when his blonde girlfriend tried to run up the slick hill to the lawn area and landed in the mud. There were guys who stood still with their arms crossed, wearing t-shirts advertising their own rapper names, or the URLs of their music blogs, or entertainment promotion companies. Lots of people wore Black Pyramid streetwear, which is Chris Brown’s clothing line.
There were so many Chris Brown fans, that the container where they had to throw away their umbrellas before entering the amphitheater was overflowing with umbrellas.
And when Chris Brown humped the floor during Take You Down, the eardrum-piercing sound that filled the amphitheater suggested that 158 percent of those people in attendance were screaming louder than most people are capable of screaming. So, I repeat, Chris Brown, the person, is not canceled.
There didn’t seem to be any planned nightclub appearances or “official afterparty” after the show (if there was, I could find no evidence of it being promoted), and given Brown’s history of finding trouble in this city, maybe that was for the best.