Kung Fu Motherfucking Kenny. It seems to be an unrelenting rise for Compton’s Kendrick Lamar, Tuesday’s London leg of the DAMN. Tour showcased to the 20,000 capacity, why we all need to relish in an artist at the top of his game.
With the rather surprising support of 29-year-old Londoner, James Blake, the night was kicked off by a haunting performance, bass that trembled throughout your body and a light show that felt like it belonged in a spiritual, acid-induced trip. But, it worked. Blake’s subdued demeanour occasionally interjected his performance, with the role of the most unusual hype-man, “you’re in for a great night with Kendrick Lamar”, he teased. In a reduced set that saw the plays of Timeless, If The Car Besides You Moves Ahead and CMYK, Blake’s performance acted perfectly as a preparation for his forthcoming LP and a route into his own headline tour.
As James Blake’s set concluded, the countdown for the main event begun as the crowd oozed with anticipation. With a drop of the lights and withdrawal of the curtain, BANG: “I got, I got, I got, I got…”. Beer flew over our heads and a wave of bodies bounced off the ground, the Kendrick Lamar show had begun. Providing the most enthralling opening to set, Lamar punctures the Fox News discussion demonising his 2015 track, Alright, delivering a relentless, focused flow, as he breathlessly bounced around the stage.
Kendrick’s discography expanded further last week, with the release of the Black Panther soundtrack, which he executively produced. Yet, it was his incomparable back catalogue that provided the sweetest moments of the night. The vigorous funk of King Kunta, the ballsy flow of Backseat Freestyle and pulsing beat of Alright, were all met with the loudest roars. Pieced together with the finest moments from the latest release, DAMN., the likes of FEEL. saw Lamar rise from the centre of the crowd, as he sat on top of what appeared to be a jail cell. The intense XXX echoed with sirens and blue and red flashes of light, only to be contrasted with the sinuous rocking of LOVE. and brash, daring HUMBLE. – which, if there didn’t need to be any more proof, emphasised the adornment Lamar’s following shows. The crowd sang three-quarters of the song with no accompaniment from a backing track, at a deafening volume.
Kendrick’s creativity is what makes him so unique and the DAMN. Tour proved to be no exception. Throughout the performance, depicted on the screens throughout the arena, a three-part fable cast Lamar as an intrepid, black belt-holding “Black Turtle”, who undergoes several trials and challenges, including a fantastic Street Fighter skit with an actor on stage. Providing one of the most fun interludes to a show I have experienced, the crowd were transfixed by the story, even jeering and applauding the final sequence.
As LOVE. concluded, Lamar was met with a sea of cheers and admiration from the crowd. Lasting a strong five minutes, the London crowd gave the Californian the ‘Seven Nations Army’ treatment – “Oh, Kendrick Lamar” echoed around the arena with astonishing volume. A truly special moment to experience, the humble (yes, cliché) artist eventually responded with “We got something special going on here… the love from the bottom of my heart”, prompted an even louder cheer from the adoring crowd.
Dressed all in white, draped in a robe, Kendrick concluded the evening with an encore of GOD., expressing his love for performing the single. Easily one of the catchiest singles from the album, the lyrics were spurted out by those pushing for the exits, even onto the tube.
Exhausted but ecstatic, Kendrick Lamar produced one of the greatest evenings of entertainment I have experienced. If you ever have the opportunity to see the King live, take it.