Live Review: Kendrick Lamar @ CFE Arena

Easter is a sacred day where people gather together for worship, family meals, and, in my experience at least, to collectively shout “I pray my dick get big as the Eiffel Tower, so I can fuck the world for 72 hours.” If my reference went over your head, then allow me rephrase: I spent the evening of Jesus’ rebirth with thousands of other college-aged “hip-hop-heads,” (I use quotations because this is how one of the Caucasian openers describe the audience and I would never use such a silly phrase) all there to see Compton-based MC Kendrick Lamar. Lamar’s latest output, 2012’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, passed by me at first, but more recently, has infiltrated my ears. I was excited to share the good news with Lamar, as well as, see if rap’s hottest MC is any good live. Enjoy.

Good Kid, S.H.O.W. Shitty

Now, I don’t want to seem too harsh on Kendrick, but I had very high expectations for Sunday’s show, and for the most part, they were not met. All of the opening acts aren’t worth mentioning, with the exception of MC Chief *something’s*”hype man.” I’ve seen a lot of people. But, Sunday night was the first time I have ever seen a white man with a blond permanent, dancing around to another white man’s sub-par verses while waving around a concert tee. And for the length of approximately six songs, he sold that shit. This young man paraded around the stage like Vanilla Ice possessed with the spirit of Billy Mays. At the end of his master’s set, this unnamed hero finally put an end to his teasing, and bestowed the shirt on the crowd, in a moment I can only compare to Jesus turning water into wine. <- another Easter joke

Enough rambling about less than stellar openers, let’s move on to rambling about the less than stellar closer. I can’t even remember what Kendrick opened with, but what I do remember is that it was very underwhelming. The 26-year-old MC was introduced by a less than enthusiastic *insert air horn here*DJ, and simply walked onto the stage. Now, I’m not expecting him to be lowered down from the rafters a la Gene Simmons, but this was a theme present throughout the evening. Kendrick Lamar, walking around the stage rapping without passion. And it was disappointing. Between/during songs, he used numerous concert cliches in a failed attempt to hype up the crowd. “Let’s see which side of the arena is the loudest.” “Repeat the chorus after me.” “Give me your money while you do a lackluster rendition of one of my best songs.”

But, maybe I am giving Kendrick a hard time. There were really exciting moments, but they were separated by minutes and minutes of filler. (Note: minutes are hours while seeing live music.) “Backseat Freestyle” was an obvious highlight. The beat was nasty, the crowd was into it, and Kendrick sounded hungrier. But, referring back to the cliches I listed earlier, at the end of the song, he cut the music and repeated the chorus numerous times while the audience sung back to him. To all musical performers who are trying to be better live: THIS IS BORING! We know the words, and we know you know the words.

Now, I have a hypothesis to why this concert was a flop, and it’s closely related to why Kendrick’s singles weren’t appealing to me at first. Within the environment of Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, a song like “Money Trees” has a much deeper meaning.  It’s preceded by depictions of the harsh Compton influence, and feels like a hopeless cry for help. But live, we’re pulled out of that landscape, and the song looses all its visceral meaning. “Swimming Pools (Drank)” is another example of how context twists the message. ACTUALLY, the context within the song by itself is pretty much the same: a young man battling with the temptations of abusing alcohol, while coming from a family with a history of alcoholism. BUT, the song has been morphed into a vapid celebration of drinking by idiotic “fans.” And because Kendrick’s set was more than just a front to back performance of Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, the show lacked genuine feelings. But Kendrick is a genuine artist with genuine music, and he needs to push for more live authenticity then what I saw in the semi-anti-climatic, yet still very awesome, closer of the show. “YACK, YACK, YACK YACK!”