Music Critic Sadie Iddenden reviews Kendrick Lamar’s recent concert, highlighting the theatrical production and electric atmosphere
Kendrick Lamar fans were ecstatic in May of this year when his album Mr Morale & The Big Steppers dropped – that same energy was carried into Utilia Arena on Bonfire Night. Kendrick’s fifth studio album was arguably his most honest and poetic work to date. The songs meander around intense subject matters like generational trauma, prejudices and life in the limelight. As the floor and seats started to fill up, I questioned how Kendrick with such heartfelt lines would harness the excitable crowd’s liveliness.
Sometimes at live concerts, it can seem the support act is not appreciated as crowds murmur and chat, but this was not the case for Baby Keem. As Keem walked out, the floor moved as one swaying back and forth, and the stalls cheered immensely as he began to rap. His words of gratitude to be in Birmingham were greatly received by the fans as he proceeded to play some of his most popular songs like ‘ORANGE SODA’ and ‘lost souls’. If fans were shocked at the exhilarating lighting and set design for Keem – they were not ready for Kendrick.
Dancers dressed in black and white walked across an elongated stage which split the standing into two halves, tension was high as Kendrick was yet to be seen. Soon, the stage curtains lifted to reveal Kendrick on a piano with an identical ventriloquist dummy of himself sitting on top. The prop of a bed and a stand that the dancers proceeded to lay on exerted the feeling that we were watching a theatre performance. This was not the only segment of the show which enveloped this idea. Throughout the concert dancers, pyrotechnics, props and abstract lighting kept the crowd engaged and eager to see what was next. A women’s voice which seemed uncanny to Little Simz’s guide on her Mercury award-winning album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, led Kendrick by the hand through the show. At times the voice acknowledged Kendrick’s self-serving nature, and at others, it offered comedic relief by ordering him to do a COVID test in a giant box with four men in PPE.
Kendrick’s set list was the perfect blend of beautiful songs like ‘Father Time’ to old-time classics like’ Money Trees’ and ‘King Kunta’. The energy was electric within the room, and before one could think if it could get any better, Baby Keem reappeared from the ground to perform ‘Family Ties’ amongst a few other tracks.
His latest album in which he calls for the world to let go of him as a giant in the industry does not feel reflected here. If anything, he leans entirely into the idea of his name in bright lights and being a star. Arguably his show is orientated entirely around himself. Not as Kendrick Lamar but as Mr Morale. This pseudonym allows the audience to revel in the two-hour-lasting world he masters and get carried away in easily one of the best-produced shows he has created.
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Album Review: Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers