Kendrick Lamar Bonnaroo 2015. Photo: Film Magic/Live Nation
If you weren’t aware, hip hop is ruling the charts across streaming platforms and sales alike. No matter what you think of the genre, you can’t deny that a true banger is hard to resist. Since he came on the scene about seven years ago, Compton’s Kendrick Lamar has seemed to be hell bent to prove that he’s one of the strongest mic spitters in the world, and Saturday night at Toyota Center he did just that. Running through a blistering set that featured favorites old and new alongside some deep cuts, Lamar introduced Houston to Kung Fu Kenny while bringing plenty of grace and showmanship to the performance. While Free Press Houston and, to my understanding, no other outlets were allowed photographers, the show was definitely one for the books.
Opening up with a short film complete with a kung fu theme, it was Lamar’s entrance from the bottom of the stage that got the crowd going. Explosions, crazy light rigs and videos playing while he performed on the large stage by himself where he opened things up with “DNA.” Complete with a kung fu fighting acrobatic performer and a clip from Fox & Friends in the background, Lamar got the DAMN. tour off to a rousing start. Following things up with “ELEMENT,” Lamar made sure things stayed on point. When he started the opening lines of To Pimp A Butterfly’s “King Kunta,” there wasn’t a still body in the entire arena. Keeping things on top, Lamar dropped fan favorites “untitled 07|2014-2016” and “untitled 02| 06.23.2014” like he was on a tear. Covering Future’s “Mask Off” and Schoolboy Q’s “Collard Greens,” before dropping “Swimming Pools (Drank),” and “Backseat Freestyle,” things were going off like Lamar was having the time of his life. Then, after dropping “LOYALTY.” Lamar let the second kung fu themed film play before he popped up in the center of the audience on a very small stage.
Kendrick Lamar at Bonnaroo 2015, Photo: Film Magic/Live Nation
While the lighting on that stage seemed pretty weak, and Lamar would get elevated above the audience as he thanked them all for showing up, rollling back the clock five years to drop “Money Trees,” and then following things with “XXX” before switching gears and rolling into “m.A.A.d city.” Lamar wasn’t kidding around in how he presented the tracks. When he dropped yet another film and returned to the main stage, things got pretty intense with police lights and a dancer while the ceiling lowered for “PRIDE.” Donning a red outfit, Lamar’s visage with the lowered ceiling was intense and added to the more groove oriented pops of the track before he took the audience into the bars of “LOVE.” while performing in a strange position with another dancer with what looked like plenty of emotion as well. After promising this “to be the loudest concert you’ll attend all year,” Kendrick brought things to a hotter place with “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” where the audience sang in unison. This was followed by the hit jam “Alright” where it was obvious that this was no longer the home of the Houston Rockets, but possibly the house that Kendrick built. The upper ceiling of the main stage at a strange angle that seemed to mirror the shiny floor that Lamar performed atop, Lamar would start “HUMBLE.” only to have the audience sing the bars back enough to get him to recognize them enough to stop singing them himself before starting things up again and dropping his strongest track of the night in energy alone.
After a short video with the words “Ain’t Nobody Prayin’ For Me,” Lamar would return for the encore track, “FEEL.” It was ninety minutes that would easily cement Lamar as the stronghold everyone wanted and made many of those in attendance believers in his strengths as a performer. For me, as my fourth time catching Lamar, this performance was by far my favorite. With tons of energy, plenty of humility, and more than enough prowess on the mic, Lamar proved to Houston that he’s earned every ounce of praise he’s received and went further than most to show off how strong he is in person.
Kendrick Lamar Shines at Toyota Center This was reposted for my personal reading use