Kendrick Lamar at The 3 Arena, Dublin, 7th February 2017
It’s a testament to hip-hop that its leading figure was commanding prices in the hundreds on the day of his Dublin show.
King Kenny now sits in the upper echelons of the music world, and the 30-year-old does so by not being ostentatious, but by exploring his faith and by generally acting as a role model for disenfranchised youth everywhere.
But frankly, a lot of people just like his tunes – and that’s OK too. What is important to note, however is just how positive these messages are, conveyed as a silver lining on the skidmark that otherwise is pop culture.
Sandwiched between the ‘DAMN. Tour’ and his first show in Ireland (at Vicar St. in 2013) was his headline date at Longitude. While that saw him perform a host of classics from the jazz-infused ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’, (with a live band to boot) this 3Arena date was something more akin to his early shows; some beats, some rhymes and a whole lot of ferocity.
Conceptually, through his three albums, there has always been a development of character – the protagonist usually finding enlightenment through divine intervention following some temptations, some sin and then ultimately, some soul searching.
One might’ve expected this to weigh heavy on his live show, especially considering ‘DAMN.’ is his most overtly religious piece of work.
But Kendrick instead opted to entertain. Afterall, perhaps the 3Arena isn’t the place to try and convert a dwindling population of believers to the way of Christ.
Instead, it was Kung Fu Kenny, the character born out of the DNA. video (K Dot’s second most viewed) who took to the stage. And it was DNA. which kicked off proceedings.
Suitably high-octane and chantworthy, this immediately got even the most stoic in attendance off their feet. Was it too immediate? Perhaps Money Trees would have left more to the intrigue. But did it mark out the ‘DAMN.’ stomper as an anthem? And was it executed perfectly despite the sudden 50-to-100-to-50 again delivery? Most definitely. Even the most zealous critic couldn’t deny that.
The fact that the now infamous voice clip of a Fox News anchor reading a line from Alright with derision before Geraldo Rivera claims “Hip-hop has done more damage to African Americans than racism in recent years” is played before this only adds fire to the occasion.
What followed was another ‘DAMN.’ highlight, the James Blake-produced ‘ELEMENT.’, complete with conduplicatio and even more call-and-response. The crowd were now firmly in the palm of his hand. Kendrick could go anywhere he wanted. Where would it be?
Another fan favourite, King Kunta (from 2015’s ‘TPAB’). Its chorus is as rapturously received as the day it was released, its bridge as explosive and fun as the man performing it.
POP! And a couple of moments to focus on his notable features; 2017’s New Freezer and the remarkable Collard Greens from TDE labelmate, Schoolboy Q. A source of irritation perhaps for some. But a wonderful diversion and showcase of Kendrick’s lyrical talents.
It’s important to remember that Kendrick has jumped from platinum to double-platinum since ‘TPAB’. His fanbase have fallen in love with him at different points. Furthermore, features are a key element of rap and a landmark in any artist’s career. The choice to play these songs reflects this perfectly. Other highlights included the slow-jam of Pride. and the disparately driving Lust.
If there were to be any criticisms it would be that by failing to play the third verse off Swimming Pools, Kendrick was in fact succumbing to people’s lack of engagement, thus minimising the anti-drink anthem to only two chapters of the full story. But then nobody wants to consider the depressive sides to drinking when they’re ten over-priced vodka’n’white deep.
It’s interesting that A.D.H.D. has been cut from his set while songs like Backstreet Freestyle and Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe remain (taking nothing away from them, they’re unbelievable songs and taken down with aplomb on the night). However, A.D.H.D. offers a different side to his ouevre, one more transcendent yet laidback.
Why The Blacker The Berry is omitted again also beggars belief, especially since it’s ‘T.P.A.B.’s most abrasive and incendiary single. Perhaps it’s too provocative and afrocentric?
Additionally, fans of Pride. will be eager to see Kendrick produce something in a similar mould next time around. U2 didn’t pop by for XXX, but those wondering where the spectacle lay need only refer back to when the man of the moment had to restart Humble. The audience created their own feature here, rapping along acapella in what has become a regular occurrence on the tour.
Overall, a tremendous outing from the decade’s biggest star, one which will cement his ‘legend’ status in Ireland. A special mention as well to support act on the night, James Blake. The Londoner’s sullen post-dubstep won’t have been fully appreciated by everybody. But hopefully a few people will have gone home with Life Round Here and Retrograde on their weekly playlist and the discovery that he’s the savvy producer behind Element, War Ready and King’s Dead.
Photos Longitude 2016.