It was heartwarming spending an evening with my son watching and listening to Kendrick Lamar from the Gods of the O2 arena. My blog reminds me that 10 years ago I went to see the Rolling Stones , that was valedictory (fun in a sentimental way). This gig has kept me up all night – thinking and re listening to Lamar’s work. This was the real deal – this was punk – 45 years on.
The picture captures the evening, Lamar isn’t just an entertainer, he’s a deep-thinking guy whose latest album looks closely at how he can grow into adulthood without falling off the celebrity ladder.
For me , it was heart warning that 95% of the 18,000 people in the O2 knew what he was singing and sang it back to him. The 5% who didn’t sing – included me – but I don’t profess to be at that stage of life.
The row in front of me was populated by a group of black kids who so perfectly sang and danced that I will remember them as much as the singers on stage (a shout out to Baby Keem who supported and collaborated ).
There is no generational divide when love comes around
What I saw last night was – to repeat – heart-warming. If Big Zuu was in the arena , I hope he bottled some of that juice and can sprinkle it on pension awareness week – whenever it re-emerges (I have lost track!).
The language of the evening would have got any Cabinet Minister sacked, but you can bring people together around expletives when the conviction of the multitude is so positive. The words I will not say on this blog, belong to the show and the audience (of which I was privileged to be a part).
And to suppose that such a crowd, such a vast and friendly multitude of young people of all ages cannot make for good , is to massively miss the point. The future of the planet is in these hands, as much as those at COP 27. Whatever we leave them , it is up to these people to make the best of it and with Lamar, they are growing into better people.
The evening’s performance was interrupted regularly by the voice of an elderly woman, much as the podcasts of George the Poet are interspersed by observations from a challenger.
That woman was played by Helen Mirren, whose pre-recorded voice rang out in the O2 Arena throughout the set, confronting the Californian rapper with therapeutic interventions about his behaviour. Or rather, the behaviour of his alter ego, Mr Morale, the central protagonist in the morality play that hip-hop’s most intrepid star has devised for The Big Steppers tour.
At one point in the show Lamar sang from a box, suspended over the audience
It was a good metaphor for the struggle to grow out of the stereotypes he and his audience have inherited.
And at the end Mirren asked him “can you stay out of the box” – I felt like shouting – but there was no doubt, Lamar did three outstanding songs by Baby Keem , listening , rivalling and then as one with his protégé and cousin
— KENDRICK LAMAR BIBLE (@dakendrickbible) November 1, 2022
He ended, not with the Glastonbury image of the sacrificial lamb but at the piano with Mr Morale.
He , the piano and the dummy sank below the stage to the final chords and maybe this was another reference to the passion. His final words reminded us that he will be playing again tonight (Weds 9th), I am tempted.
We went home , as we came , by boat. Fellow passengers were not drunk or high, but we were all in the good spirits that came from being together at what Lamar called the “greatest show on earth”.