I’m not a big concert goer and have only been to a couple major ones in my lifetime. I prefer a small local show to a large stadium concert almost any day of the week. BUT, there are a few artists out there that can make me pull out my wallet and pay the often exorbitant amount of money required to get a decent seat. It’s a really short list of must see acts, with Kendrick Lamar being at the very top of that list. He’s easily my favorite artist out and I’ve been there for all his mixtapes, albums, features, freestyles, pretty much everything, but I had yet to see him live in concert. With the recent release of his third studio album and the guest appearance of another one of my favorite acts, Travis Scott, I figured there was no time better than now to catch him at his peak with The DAMN. Tour.
Phoenix was the opening show of the tour and they held it at the Gila River Arena which holds around 18,000 people and it was surely at or near capacity. It was pretty much all assigned seating so there were no huge lines waiting to get in but the lines for the merch was a whole other story. It was typical merch fare of t-shirts and hats but it all seemed generally well designed. The crowd was incredibly diverse, more so than I expected, and while it was a generally younger crowd there was fair number of older people and families present.
D.R.A.M. was the opener to the show and he did a good job of kicking things off, running through his slew of hits accompanied by a live band. “Broccoli” was the clear crowd favorite and he closed his set on that. Nothing spectacular, but not bad either, a solid opening. Travis Scott was a big reason why I came to the show and he did not disappoint. It was a true spectacle as about 15 minutes into his set the opening to his new single “Butterfly Effect” started to loop over and over while a large mechanical bird lowered down from the rafters, swooped over to him where he proceeded to climb onto it’s back before it took him above the stage for the song’s immense drop. It was fucking epic and the entire arena went absolutely nuts! The combination of fogs, lights, and the perfect song choice made it one of the most visually impressive things I’ve ever seen in person. He spent the entire rest of his time performing from the back of the bird and he came with banger after banger from all of his projects going all the way back to his Owl Pharaoh days. I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t bring Kendrick out to perform “goosebumps” with him or vice versa and there were a few technical hiccups but otherwise the show was absolute hype and had the whole arena rocking.
Then came time for the main event, Kendrick mothafuckin’ Lamar! It kicked off with a literal bang and he opened his set up with the crowd pleasing “DNA.” and “ELEMENT.”, complete with the Fox News video clip and his complete ending lyrical annihilation of “DNA.” (with sword wielding ninja in tow). He went through a slew of his hits, going all the way back to some Good Kid, M.A.D.D City gems, with “Backseat Freestyle” and “m.A.A.D city” drawing the loudest cheers. “m.A.A.d city” was probably my highlight of the night, as the transition from “XXX.” to that song was brilliant and just made absolute sense. The crowd engagement was incredible, we hung onto every lyric, often reciting whole verses back to him and the energy never let up once. There were no guests, about three wardrobe changes, and a couple stage changes. He did the obligatory encore, ending with “The Heart Part 4” and “GOD.” The whole show’s theme was set around his new alter ego, Kung Fu Kenny, complete with 70’s era-esque kung fu movie skits and it was all executed flawlessly.
I specifically waited till later in Kendrick’s career to see him live because I knew his showmanship would be at another level compared to his early days and he’d have a whole arsenal of content to work with. The wait was well worth it because he delivered in every way possible; he and Travis Scott put on a spectacle and had the energy on a thousand all night with no let ups, I was completely drained by the end. It truly was electric and further proof why he’s the best out at moment. If there’s one concert to see this year, I’d choose this one. You can check out our full set of highlights from the concert with pictures and videos by following the link below:
Have you caught a show on The DAMN. Tour? Where at? How’d it compare to other concerts you’ve been to? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to leave your own ratings and reactions for the show.