Kendrick Lamar in concert: something new and different, something really beastly

It is true that the entire audience was already on their feet shouting before the concert began: excitement flowed like lava from the highest parts of the stands, it slid between the great curtain of lit mobiles and formed a great ocean of boiling magma on the track of the sports hall, where thousands of kids received the first songs jumping with their arms raised and bumping into each other as if they were one body.

It starts to get really hot Kendrick Lamar is devouring the letters in a vertiginous way. He raps with incandescent force, but above all he raps relentlessly, never wavering once or yielding a meter, relentlessly. She will maintain the maximum level of intensity until the last second of the concert, when she suddenly disappears with her piano under the stage with the same abruptness with which she is going to shake the whole show.

The stage extends into a long white catwalk that reaches more than half of the floor. On her there is nothing more than this man dressed in black leather by Louis Vuitton, a suit designed by her friend Virgil Abloh, the ill-fated couturier who died 11 months ago. With that look he looks like a soldier without an army, or a one man army, if you pay attention to the multiple characters and points of view that it adopts. In any case, the last of a platoon of renegades, of misunderstood, of perfect morons.

There are no musicians, no DJs, no backing singers, just a corps of 11 dancers who show up occasionally. The music is hard and sharp, and sounds as it should: very loud. It’s a show and it’s a monologue, what the theater calls a ‘tour de force’ of all the Kendricks that fit into this man who is also broken glass inside, a man who tries to glue his pieces together with the help of bleeding songs .

All that adrenaline concentrated like dynamite has been causing Kendrick Lamar since June with the tour he is offering in the US and Europe and which already exceeds 60 concerts. A tour that is a coven. His concerts contain so many memorable moments that critics like Chris Kelly of the Washington Post have claimed that with them is “rewriting the rules of the rap show”.

Kendrick Lamar during his concert in Paris.WORLD

On Saturday night, the same day that his glorious album ‘Good Kid, MAAD City’ turned 10 years old, he offered his second concert at the Accor Arena in Paris, where just over 20,000 people entered a collective trance. In addition, millions of viewers were able to follow the live broadcast offered by Amazon Music through Prime Video and their Twitch account, with a large display of cameras (19) and technicians (109). The show, however, has little of a TikTok concert: it is a demanding, ambitious and rough show like the album that Kendrick Lamar has released this year, ‘Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers’, which contains the most avant-garde music of his career and has been applauded as one of the most outstanding of the year.

On the album, the fifth of his multifaceted career, he appears overwhelmed, paranoid and insecure. The messiah of rap, so faithful to the Christian faith that he has been baptized twice, assumes the lyrics of the album as the confessions of a wild psychoanalysis therapy. He judges everything, starting with himself, and without mercy: considered in the past a paradigm of ethical rectitude, it faces weaknesses, frustrations and traumas in a very long and complex cycle of songs that is enjoyed as much as it is suffered and that does not take any shortcut, but always chooses the path of experimentation. An album about moral judgment could not be more defining of 2022.

Kendrick Lamar wearing a crown of thorns.
Kendrick Lamar wearing a crown of thorns.

But if the raw material of the album is insecurity and weakness, live Kendrick Lamar shows himself as a colossus that had survived an odyssey of pain and doubt. It is armored and seems indestructible. The album is a response to public scrutiny, fame, posturing, the dictatorship of the image and its position as a moral beacon, but the live show works as a declaration of intent, as a great categorical affirmation.

It should be remembered that the rapper from Los Angeles, one of rap’s most enigmatic stars and its greatest icon in the last decade, has ended up becoming the anti kanye west. He is humble and discreet, a devotee of artistic creation and social conscience who, after winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for his previous album, the very successful ‘Damn’, and adding 14 Grammy awards, he retired without saying see you later. While he was the father of a boy and a girl, he remained so isolated from everything that he has confessed that during those years he spent long periods without a cell phone. We are not even talking about social media.

With fame as an ordeal and fatherhood as a catharsis, he sat on the couch and vomited the endless truths that would form his new album. “I had to be as crude and sincere as possible in order to feel liberated”confesses to ‘W Magazine’ in one of the few interviews he has given, in which he talks about the need to “get all the shit out.”

At the concert, Kendrick Lamar gets to sit in an armchair as if he were on the couch of the psychiatrist, whose voiceover was recorded by actress Helen Mirren. The music often sounds breathy and nervous, tainted by the anxiety of the lyrics, but his attitude is so powerful that he seems anything but a man who doubts himself. He raps with the power of a tricked-out motorcycle, he makes noise, he screams, he accelerates in the curves: he is unleashed. And meanwhile everyone jumps as if he stepped on hot coals, as if an evil spring has been activated along with the strobe lights. The entire venue bubbling with the excitement transmitted by this mutating and runaway music.

At the beginning of the show, Kendrick Lamar handles a ventriloquist doll, then the image of a puppet appears on the screens, and during the show the shadows of the musician will be projected several times as negative images, while on stage the light always follows him of white spotlights like accusing fingers. “A mask won’t hide who you are inside”, can be read on the screens in the final stretch, when it has already shown all the Kendrick contained in it. Then, enclosed in a transparent box, it rises eight or ten meters in the center of the room while the bass resonates like a racing heart. He is the core of everything, he just locked in that cage of scrutiny and public judgment, rapping like a madman.

It is not an easy or complacent show, and of course it is the opposite of the classic rap concert, but it is truly barbaric, it is a public trial in which he is accused, a lawyer, a prosecutor and a judge, a boxing match in which he It is the two fighters. It’s something new and it’s something differentand while that’s not necessarily a good thing, in his hands it sounds great.

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Kendrick Lamar in concert: something new and different, something really beastly