It goes without saying that the 02 Arena in London is a venue reserved for those at the higher echelons of performance. For instance, a few weeks prior to this concert, legendary comedian Chris Rock took to the stage, entertaining a crowd with his well-known, well-established brand of humour.
Compton-raised rapper Kendrick Lamar is at, what some may call, the peak of his career. He has a perennially engaging couple of musical projects under his belt. These projects balance concept and content perfectly and because of this millions of fans from around the world have become invested in his journey.
Kendrick does not disappoint in a live environment and that much is explicitly apparent upon spending an evening with him. The very beginning of the gig saw him assume the popular role of ‘Kung-Fu Kenny’ in a few short clips that played to the venue. Through this, the audience are made aware that a hugely entertaining, and cathartic performance will take place. Lamar chooses to stand alone on-stage. A curious move being that his albums are often rich with instrumentation. Not to mention that the influences of soul music run incredibly deep, a genre that often relies on the collective energy of a group or band. Not only did this not hinder him from giving a rich performance, it buoyed his performance greatly. He is the master wordsmith. And all of his fans, from Section 88 to DAMN, all know that Kendrick is the sole attraction.
Even in the choice not to bring out guest stars is a decision to give the people what they want. As Lamaer methodically rips through nuanced verses and catchy choruses, it doesn’t even cross your mind that this, in effect, is one man. He is alone on stage, performing to thousands upon thousands of people.
The two moments of the show that will remain in crystalline condition for all those that experienced it ironically both came when no music was playing. One of those moments came during the hit song Humble. The band completely cut the music at a point at which the whole crowd knew the lyrics and from that point onwards, the catchiness of the song literally took over. The crowd continued to sing the lyrics all the way up through the second verse. What must be understood here, is this is not some simple, football chant-esque passage to sing, these are intricate and technically-complex lyrics. The audience certainly showed Kenny their appreciation of his craft. He span the song back to perform it all again. This reprise being greeted with just as much passion and ferocity from the crowd as the last.
The second moment came towards the end of the show. The crowd was overwrought with pleasure following the fan favourite ‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe’. And as such, they proceeded to cheer Kendrick as loud as they could. This applause and ovation went from 5 seconds to 20, from 20 seconds to a minute, and then onwards to what must have been around 2 minutes of straight applause. Those closest to the stage will declare, after the show, that Lamar appeared choked-up and emotional following this ovation. Though the ovation was met with calmly by him stating ‘That’s love’, before telling the crowd that since the beginning, the UK had been a second home for him.
At one particular moment, the artist rose from a platform in the middle of the arena. He spewed out sharp and incredibly controlled lyrics to one column of fans after another. A shroud of hands bayed at him and the incredible aura his performance carries. Echoes of legendary performers from yesteryear are inevitably heard still ringing in the ears of those that were lucky enough to see the performance.
Kendrick Lamar has, for an extended amount of time now, asserted himself as one at the top of the rap game. But performances like this push him way beyond this. His eloquence and charm when staging a performance, the control he asserts over every intricate rhyme and verse that he fires to the crowd, the depth of songs he can now pick from that can fire a crowd up to the point of combustion. The amalgamation of all these aspects that Kendrick brings, make him one of the greatest artists and performers of our time.