Review – Gothic Theater Got a Live Taste of Pusha T’s Product

On Thursday night, in front of 70,000 disgusted spectators, and millions more at home, Denver’s beloved franchise orchestrated its worst performance since Super Bowl 48. In life, however, there must always be balance. For every “bad,” there must always be a “good.” You seldom know how it may occur, only that it will occur. In this case, about five minutes down I-25 and 20 blocks south on Broadway, at the Gothic Theater, a performance of an opposite, near-certain outcome took place. Pusha T made his Denver stop for the It’s Almost Dry tour, and lit up the joint with songs from a gold medal album run. 

Pusha T at Gothic Theatre in Denver Colorado

All photography by David Cohn

What the Gothic Theater lacks in size, it makes up for in character. Artwork on its walls is fading. Dust collects on wires that attach the light stanchion to the ceiling. The floor, shaped more like a runway than a ballroom, was flooded with fans, and the gold-painted balcony railings that separated second-level fans from the stage sat just yards away from the heads of GA spectators. All this combines for a level of intimacy one wouldn’t have usually expected at a Pusha T show. But it worked wonders, and made sense considering his versatile mix of speaker-knockers and slow, methodical songs. The contrast was made evident right out of the gate; “Let The Smokers Shine The Coupes” got everyone bouncing, as Pusha T emerged in an all-white getup to found footage of crackheads on the video screen. Shortly after, he leaped into his bag with “Just So You Remember.” While they’re all different in theme and delivery, rap’s great one-liners (see Big L, DMX, etc.) bring a different sort of energy to live performance. It paid to listen to Pusha T — hearing lines like “Just so you remember who you dealin’ with, this Pyrex talks, but I’m the ventriloquist.” It cut deep, and would be just one of hundreds that gave the crowd goosebumps. 

Pusha T at Gothic Theatre in Denver Colorado

The first half of the setlist was a mixture of his two critically-acclaimed, most recent albums, 2018’s Daytona, and 2022’s It’s Almost Dry. Tracks from the two rap album-of-the-year contenders came in waves. A huge highlight came when Pusha T began rapping the intro to “If You Know You Know” acapella. You could feel the tension in the air, as fans anticipated the overwhelmingly dazzling Kanye-produced beat. Cop lights rolled across the video boards and stage lights. The lights were so powerful, it felt like there was a patrol of squad cars on stage. Throughout the show, Pusha’s accompanying visuals impressed. For the most part, the graphics remained true to form and theme — mostly black and white, depicting gritty images of street culture. Around the time that he cut perfectly into the pounding horns of “The Games We Play,” fuzzy images of public housing balconies spun like slot machines on screen. There was a level of fluidity from start to finish in both audio and video. Songs melted together not lightly, but with a resonating ‘oomph.’ 

Pusha T at Gothic Theatre in Denver Colorado

High points on the back end of his show included many “throwbacks” (if you could even call them that). The ear-piercing guitar string, plucked over and over and over on “Nosetalgia,” was heaven. “Come Back Baby” and “Santeria” brought to life his second-to-none ability in rapping over Kanye instrumentals. Infrared,” played alongside a deep-red sonar radar (like one you’d see on a submarine), is perhaps Pusha T’s clearest, most airtight record ever. It was a treat getting to hear an all-time rap bar live, “Remember Will Smith won the first Grammy? And they ain’t even recognize HOV until Annie. So I don’t tap dance for the crackers and sing mammy, cuz I’m supposed to juggle these flows and nose candy.” The words cut through Gothic Theater like a knife, and reminded everyone, if they weren’t already in tune, who “cocaine’s Dr. Seuss” truly is. 

Pusha T at Gothic Theatre in Denver Colorado

Pusha’s encore, marked notably by a mosh pit during the chart-topping G.O.O.D. Music collaboration “Mercy,” and a full circle finale with “Grindin’‘ from his days in Clipse, rounded out a polarizing performance. It was a diverse collection of songs from his catalog — as diverse as the crowd in attendance. Pusha T prides himself on being a pure storyteller. Back in April, he responded to a question on Twitter asking how he felt about people listening to his music that have no connection to what he’s talking about. He responded, “These are my favorite people in my fan base… they enjoy the music the same way I enjoy Mob films.” On Thursday night, fans from all different backgrounds were given a window into a world that Pusha T exhibits better than anyone. He lived it, wrote it down with pen and paper along the way, and now, atop the mountain, raps it in unique cadence for millions across the globe.

All photography by David Cohn.