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Kendrick Lamar At Barclays Center, Friday, August 5th, 2022, Reviewed

What do Dave Gilmour and Kendrick Lamar have in common? Two of the best sound systems I have ever heard. For Gilmour it is part of the job description and not for Lamar, where the sounds at Barclays were a culmination of 45 years or so to reach the point where a hip hop concert is not drowned out in bass.Yesterday at Barclays Center, on the first of a two night stop on his “Mr. Morale And The Big Steppers” tour, Kendrick did everything he could to sell his new album and himself as worthy of his Pulitzer Prize and if he hadn’t been hampered by his worst album to date it would have been well on its way to being the best concert of the year.

Everything about it was right, from starting time to closing, from a streamlined yet state of the art set design,to Kendrick’s energy other level, to his dancing simple but well choreographed dash and dance and jump, to his band just about out of sight to the left of the stage to himself a cool, skleek rap superhero central figure with stoic dancers surrounding him. And finally to the very appreciative audience. Even his opening acts were good, though his cousin Baby Keems was hampered by not having access to his biggest hit “Family Ties (he would perform it with Kendrick towards the end of the evening -in an isolation booth with Kendrick taking and failing a covid test) and Tanna Leone something of a revelation in his two short 15 minute set reaching a height with “Lucky”.

The timing couldn’t have been better or more respectful or straightforward, Tanna at 745, Baby Keem Keems at 810 and Kendrick at 907… very much appreciated, and huge add to Kendrick so nimble, performing tongue twisting words with a flow like a waterfall, he spits them out with a precision that belies his weakest asset -his voice. Dressed like a cross between Prince and Michael Jackson in a black suit that could be from the armed forces or maybe the Black Panthers and one white glove that prays to the saints and all the martyrs to call down Michael.

Hits heavy early with newbie “N95” along with showstoppers “ELEMENT.”, “Backseat Freestyle” “m.A.A.d city” and “DNA.” and on the second half settled into the new album, a depressing, overlong miss with the occasional flashes of, what’s that word, genius? But the sound saves it from being a waste as you can, miraculous, not just make out the words but also make out the tone of voice, the CCTV is on throughout (it was on during Tanna’s fifteen minutes), and it saves the set from ever sinking as “Savior” provides us with the question mark: “are you happy for me?”.

So far so good, but performing 13 songs off Mr. Morale and only two off his masterpiece To Pimp A Butterfly is completely unacceptable. No “The Blacker The Berry” so we can hear “Silent Hill”, not even the superb “Mother I Sober”? Makes no sense… this is 2022, concerts are no longer tied to albums and particularly not indifferent albums.

Grade: B+

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