Kendrick Lamar gives roaring bare bones performance in Vancouver

Kendrick Lamar @ Rogers Arena 2/8/17

Photo courtesy of Complex
Photo courtesy of Complex

Kendrick Lamar—the great one-man show—took the Vancouver Rogers Arena stage August 2nd for his ‘The DAMN Tour’, and proved without a shadow of a doubt why he is so damned beloved and critically acclaimed. The guy is pretty fantastic. Wednesday night’s concert had some pretty diehard fans pulsating off of their seats, screaming out the lines to his masterpiece songs with perfect timing and nearly over-the-top exuberance. The guy has gone Platinum and has taken home his fair share of Grammy Awards at this point, but that’s a dusting compared to the all-out love of his fans.

Lamar was in the spotlight the whole time, appearing from behind a wall of smoke in a yellow tracksuit set—“DNA” would be his opening choice for the night and would include the brief company of a ninja—Lamar’s current obsession. “ELEMENT” kept the hype at full throttle, as Lamar bounced around the stage…just the man, a mic and those powerful lyrics. This concert was completely and 100% focused on the rapping quality and the written power of the songs. Lady Gaga’s explosive visual spectacle the night before provided a contrast, showing that there are many ways to charm and excite an audience. Lamar went the simple route—even in heavy beat songs like “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”, “Alright” and “HUMBLE”, Lamar was all about giving the crowd what they wanted all on his own.

The audience—one for Vancouver’s books to be frank, in terms of sheer fan energy—was treated to “LUST” and “LOYALTY” from the center of the arena in and on top of a lit cage that pushed up into the air before descending at the end of the latter track. “PRIDE” was performed with Lamar and a dancer both on their sides, stacked on top of each other and floating off the floor. The effect was like a slow motion scene in a ninja film. This was a chill and beautiful part of the show, letting concertgoers soak in the quality of his lyrics once again. Lamar’s alter ego Kung Fu Kenny popped up a few times in video format during interludes, sometimes with some pretty hilarious moments…(golden crotch anyone?).

“HUMBLE” was an especially emotional point in the evening. Lamar began the song, but noticing the audience’s loud rapping, let them take over completely. The crowd literally rapped the whole thing, verse for verse. This guy has got some really committed fans. The song was done entirely without backing music and Lamar looked solemn yet emotional at the outburst. He started the song again after for his turn at it.

“Please believe this will be the livest motherfucking experience you’ve ever had in your entire life!” said Lamar to the crowd. And they didn’t disagree. The bare bones approach to tour performing is refreshing, and with all the over-production going on in the genre lately, it allows fans and newcomers to see the man and exactly what he is trying to do. No frills. You’re kicking ass, Kung Fu Kenny.