When arriving at a show on the “Long Live Montero Tour” (grab tickets to remaining dates here), you’re first greeted by venue security handing you a Playbill. It’s a jarring experience — particularly, as was the case at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall on September 20th, when a local radio DJ is warming up the audience by blasting songs you might have attempted to grind to at a homecoming dance. But this Playbill actually sets the scene well: It has a photo of Lil Nas X on the front, adorned with butterfly wings and all.
“I hate writing stuff that isn’t music but my people are forcing me at gunpoint to write this welcome note,” reads the first page in a hand-scribbled passage from the rapper, who certainly isn’t known for doing things in earnest. “This play is about my journey, what I’ve been through, me being out of breath while performing and my aspirations to continue on my path in life.”
Notice the use of the word “play.” Especially with glimpses of that Playbill yellow around you, the “Long Live Montero Tour” feels something like a Broadway production. And when the curtains finally open on Lil Nas X — a.k.a. Montero Lamar Hill himself — you can tell right away that he feels right at home.
The show is split into three “Acts,” which appear to respectively encapsulate Lil Nas X’s reclusive youth, the process of finding himself, and, finally embracing who he has become now at 23. He opens with the 2019 track “Panini,” which gets its name from the overly sentimental character on the late-aughts Cartoon Network series Chowder. Even amid Lil Nas X’s crew of raunchy, voguing backup dancers, it feels like a subtle nod to his childhood that becomes more heartbreaking as the setlist proceeds to “Sun Goes Down.”
For the melancholy ballad, the set design transforms into a childhood bedroom as Lil Nas X sings of feeling outcast: “I wanna run away/ Don’t wanna lie, I don’t want a life,” he sings, as he recalls memories of stanning Nicki Minaj and creating memes as an escape. After the set goes dark again, a screen rolls down showing projections of phone and computer screens.