Kendrick Lamar at The O2 review | A spectacle that far exceeds a concert

★★★★★ For those expecting to attend an average rap show, Kendrick Lamar’s self-proclaimed ‘greatest show on earth’ is anything but, as he beautifully blends his all-time classics with tracks from his most recent album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Kendrick Lamar


As lights dimmed and chants of “oh Kendrick Lamar” began to ring out around the O2 in typical British fashion, the sense of anticipation was palpable. It was always going to be a challenge to bring Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers to the stage, an album largely focused on Kendrick internalising his problems – a personal therapy session, if you will. But as has become the case with Kendrick Lamar, he tells a story with his art, weaving his classics over the past decade between handpicked tracks from his latest album.

British actress Helen Mirren provides narration throughout the show, a large part of the journey Kendrick takes us on. It is due to these occasional statements, directed at ‘Mr. Morale’, that we know Kendrick has not chosen his tracklist at random. “You have been in your comfort zone for over 1855 days” the show opens with “it’s time to step out,” before Kendrick appears behind a piano (a recurring prop throughout), to perform ‘United In Grief,’ ‘ELEMENT,’ and ‘Backseat Freestyle’ – songs that see Lamar wrestling with staying in his comfort zone.

Further narrations of “you have let your ego get the best of you,” followed by ‘HUMBLE.’ and “do you need a reminder (of who you are)?” before Kendrick launches into ‘DNA.’ demonstrate Kendrick’s ability to take his audience through a cohesive journey; a bold attempt, but something that largely works.

Kendrick Lamar

The calculated use of props adds to the performance. Kendrick takes a lonesome walk down the extended stage, accompanied by a dummy of himself, to perform the second half of ‘United In Grief’. The descending ceiling lights, meanwhile, accompanied by a startling image of Kendrick’s shadow with arrows in his back as he performs ‘Crown’ is a sight to behold.

That said, the use of a mock COVID test which sees Kendrick (literally) boxed in, whilst performing the anthem ‘Alright’, is a questionable statement from someone who has already expressed scepticism of the virus on ‘Savior’. The chants of “Kendrick’s in a box, in a box” were certainly entertaining, however.

Largely responsible for the spectacle were Kendrick’s 12-man group of dancers, who are weaved effortlessly in and out of the performance. Dressed in either all black or all white, the troupe are responsible for bringing some much-needed energy to the huge stage, most notably during ‘m.A.A.d City’ which sees the lights go off only for the dancers to circle Kenrick whilst holding flashlights.

Baby Keem and Tanna Leone, Kendrick’s labelmates and support acts for the tour, rejoin the show later on. Leone joins Kendrick for a performance of ‘Mr. Morale’, whilst Keem provides a necessary jolt of energy (the set is nearly two hours after all), to open the last leg of the performance.

The cousin’s performance of ‘Vent’ followed by ‘Family Ties’ is not only electric, but demonstrates Kendrick’s masterful performing ability. There are all too many shows where the main act attempts to form a mosh pit at every chance possible, or constantly demands the crowd puts their hands up. Kendrick limits these interactions, so when they do come, they’re monumental.

And if it hasn’t been said enough: Kendrick Lamar can rap. Not just in a studio, but in an arena. His breath control is excellent, allowing him to not just perform songs like ‘DNA.’ perfectly, but to make his way through a 26-song long setlist without missing a beat. There’s the occasional lyrical slip-up, but when you’re on a 6-month-long world tour, that’s to be expected.

Just like on his records, he distorts and twists his voice to give renditions of his classics; ‘Money Trees’ is a standout, not just due to the added guitars on the instrumental, but Lamar’s pitching up and almost singing at the end of several bars.

Kendrick Lamar has managed to turn a personal, introspective record into the (self-proclaimed) ‘Greatest Show on Earth.’ The Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers World Tour is more than just an average rap show, it is a production, by one of the greatest artists of our time.

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