What exactly defines a homecoming? Does it evoke images of a football player running out in the brisk cold of a mid-November game against a cupcake? Is it when a battered soldier returns from a long stint abroad? What about when a hometown kid hits it big and comes back for more?
No matter what a true homecoming is, it’s hard not to define Wiz Khalifa playing shows in Pittsburgh as a homecoming — no matter how many times he may return to the place that brought him from prodigy to one of the faces of Pittsburgh and, more specifically, its music scene.
Though his music has taken him to places he may have only dreamt about at Taylor Allderdice High, it all came full circle on a crystal clear Friday night at the First Niagara Pavillion in Burgettstown as part of the “Under the Influence of Music” tour.
Pittsburgh was spoiled this summer. Massive names like Jack White, John Legend and Katy Perry all came through the Steel City, but who could garner more attention than Wiz? Could any artist have reached the admiration of the fans that was displayed Friday?
The crowd, which represented all realms of life in Pittsburgh, ate up what Khalifa was serving with a voracious appetite.
Before anyone had a chance to feast on the main act, the rest of the impressive lineup accompanying Khalifa on tour got things started. Those names included both promising stars and industry stalwarts.
For roughly two hours before Khalifa came on, Ty Dolla $ign, Rich Homie Quan, Mack Wilds, IAMSU, DJ Drama and and Sage the Gemini did more than just warm the mic up for the prince, they showed what a true concert experience should be like.
It’s easy to bob in and out of an opening act when they can be unrecognizable or simply just not the main attraction but having such a large and diverse group of rappers helped to keep the atmosphere lively.
The apex of the opening acts came from Sage the Gemini. Most known for his viral hits “Gas Pedal” and “Red Nose,” he performed with an energy and conviction that made it hard for even the most casual fan to not be intrigued.
Still, no matter how fresh the eclectic group kept the tempo, nothing could have come close to the reaction from when the head of the Taylor Gang strolled out.
"If there's one thing people should know about me it's that I love my city," Khalifa said. "... I love my city. I'm so happy to be here."
With the help of a fan base that could probably sing along to any song he chose to play, Khalifa left few stones unturned as he covered songs all the way from mixtapes like “Kush & Orange Juice” and “28 Grams” to tracks off “Rolling Papers,” “O.N.I.F.C” and upcoming project “Blacc Hollywood.”
Does Wiz value shows in Pittsburgh differently than he would the shows out of town? Only he could ever truly know that. But with thousands screaming at the top of their lungs to songs that have traveled far outside of his hometown, it would be hard to say he didn’t.
And when “Black and Yellow” came on halfway through the show, the question was answered. Khalifa had a smile on as wide as he is lanky. For a few moments, there was no divide between the world-famous rapper and all the other Yinzers sweating on the lawn. For a homecoming show, it couldn’t have been scripted much better.
"Pittsburgh I love you so much," he said summing up the show. "Not only do you support me, but you inspire me."
RJ Schaffer: firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @rjschaffer