After a three-year hiatus, Lil Nas X returns to Nashville in full force

The pop-rap artist delighted fans at Municipal Auditorium on Oct. 2.


Chirac Troy

Lil Nas X performs, accompanied by dramatic choreography, as photographed on Oct. 2, 2022 (Hustler Multimedia/Chirac Troy)

Marques Watson, Staff Writer

In December of 2018, after buying an instrumental backing track for a mere $30, Montero Lamar Hill began recording a new song, which he completed that same day. At this point in his life, the Atlanta-born rapper had recently dropped out of college, was living with his sister and remained largely unknown in the music industry. With consequently low expectations, he released the track into the world. Few could have predicted the ensuing events. 

After gaining popularity on the video-sharing platform TikTok, that spur-of-the-moment tune by the name “Old Town Road” entered the Billboard Hot 100 in March of 2019. It then clinched the No. 1 spot for 17 weeks, picked up a collaboration by Nashville’s own Billy Ray Cyrus and was certified as a diamond track. Hill, better known by his stage name Lil Nas X, had officially made it. Almost three years later, he was nearly unrecognizable as he arrived in Nashville for a sold-out show on his first world tour. 

Despite his full-fledged transformation into an industry megastar–as he notes in “Industry Baby,” he now has a “couple Grammys on him, couple plaques”—Lil Nas X paid homage to his humble beginnings toward the start of his setlist. A poignant video that portrayed the whirlwind of emotions that he experienced during his rapid rise to fame aired on the jumbotron. Then, the screen panned to a desert landscape, and the now ubiquitous opening of “Old Town Road” began, all while a large horse crept in from stage right. Having previously seen him perform in Dallas, I must admit that there was something extra special about witnessing this country-rap earworm perform live in the country music capital.

After experiencing a last-minute family emergency, Lil Nas X was forced to move the concert back one day, leaving the arena partially empty. However, Lil Nas X more than made up for that disparity with astounding production and high-energy choreography. He even emerged from behind the curtains to apologize to fans for the abrupt rescheduling. 

The marquee of Nashville Municipal Auditorium advertises Lil Nas X’s tour, as photographed on Oct. 2, 2022 (Hustler Multimedia/Keng Teghen)
The marquee of Nashville Municipal Auditorium advertises Lil Nas X’s tour, as photographed on Oct. 2, 2022 (Hustler Multimedia/Keng Teghen) (Keng Teghen)

The rapper transitioned from performing some of his energizing earlier hits like “Rodeo” and “Panini” into the more somber track, “Sun Goes Down.” In an especially heartfelt moment, the rapper paused to belt out the lyrics “I’m gonna make my dad so proud of me,” as fans supportingly waved their phone flashlights in the air. Throughout the song, Lil Nas X wore his heart on his sleeve, making the experience feel more intimate. 

The setlist soon took a clearly intentional twist. Another introduction video parodied a church service and featured Lil Nas X as a pastor who spewed hateful, anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. After, Lil Nas X emerged from a bulbous cocoon to perform “Montero” with signature satanic imagery in the background—a clever diss to the organized religion that he claims rejected him. This act clearly represented the rapper’s rebirth into an assertive and confident figure. This theme persisted as he performed a cover of “PURE/HONEY” by Beyonce with immaculate choreography and the self-confident anthem “Scoop.”

The concert fittingly ended with one of Lil Nas X’s more recent hits, “Industry Baby.” Not only was the song invigorating enough to serve as a finale, but it also fit perfectly with the rapper’s thematic framework. “Funny how you said it was the end, yeah,” he chanted in a sassy clap-back to the haters who never believed he would perform in front of thousands of devoted fans. 

Despite an uncontrollable scheduling blip, Lil Nas X put on a sensational show. Through vulnerable raw performances and abundant artistic vision, the rapper created a sublime experience that left fans feeling like they got much more than what they paid for.