No Gimmicks Needed

by Chris Cicchiello

Review of Kendrick Lamar’s concert in Brooklyn

On July 23, at the Barclays Center, I saw arguably the best rapper of this generation: Kendrick Lamar.
The DAMN. TOUR opened with Big Baby DRAM and Travis Scott, with a surprise performance from 2Chainz. The event perfectly reflected the sentiment “less is more.” Most concerts are usually massive spectacles where elaborate set pieces are utilized to “enhance” the overall performance. But for Mr. Lamar, all that was necessary was his 5’5”self, commanding the audience as if conducting a religious sermon.
And yet he was not above us preaching. In those four hours, I truly felt the vulnerability that Mr. Lamar displayed on DAMN. Tracks such as “DNA,” “ELEMENT” and “PRIDE” put his humanity in the limelight, and I was able to feel the lyrics like never before. One of the best moments of the night was when during “PRIDE.” Everyone pulled out their flashlights on their phones, and sang the last verse for a completely awestruck Kendrick Lamar.
While DAMN has been said to be his most accessible of his albums to date, the concert’s setlist also featured songs from “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City,” and “To Pimp a Butterfly,” which united the 20,000 person crowd into one voice. For some of the jazzed-out numbers like “King Kunta,” he even had a band hidden from view to make the performance all the more powerful.
On the other hand, Travis Scott’s performance was the complete opposite. He came in flying on an electric falcon, going along with his album “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight,” singing songs about drugs, wealth and partying. He was the perfect person to open for Mr. Lamar because the juxtaposition made Kendrick’s performance all the more visceral and he hyped everyone for the “livest show you will ever experience.”
In a world where “bigger is better,” and rap artists are praised for showcasing their glamorous lifestyles, seeing Kendrick stay humble was more profound than any light show or horn blaring in the background of the set. At the end of the show, it was he who thanked us.

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