Kendrick Lamar is a force to be reckoned with. That much is clear after his near sold-out Spark Arena show last night.
The American rapper hasn’t performed in Aotearoa since 2018, with both his Dunedin and Auckland shows selling out within seconds. But now, he’s back and despite being forced to cancel a second show - that was due to take place tonight - the star proves he’s one to keep an eye on.
Known for his progressive musical styles and socially conscious songwriting, Lamar has become a highly influential hip-hop artist of his generation.
And while critics can’t help but point out he’s no Drake, easing his way through a dancefloor tune, nor a Kanye West - who is so “brilliantly facetious” according to the Guardian - the almost 12,000 person crowd in Auckland last night would beg to differ.
With 14 Grammy wins under his belt, Lamar took to the stage on Friday night, touring for his newly released album, Mr Morale & The Big Steppers. His cousin, Baby Keem, appeared as the supporting act.
Within seconds of appearing on stage Lamar captivated the crowd with a display of smoke, fire and dancers, who partook in a dystopian catwalk. He opened the show with a performance of United In Grief and fittingly was dressed head to toe in a black suit complete with knee-high leather boots.
After the song concluded, the star had the crowd waiting - or rather begging - for more.
Following up with his beloved tunes including Humble, m.A.A.d city and Father Time, the rapper created an atmosphere of anticipation of what the night would include, which turned about to be a little bit of something for everyone.
Whether you were a devotee of Lamar’s older hits or a fairly recent fan, he catered to all and despite rarely speaking to the crowd, it was clear the hitmaker was there to put on a show celebrating his musical achievements. Nothing more, nothing less.
The only thing the rapper could be faulted on was that it was one hour into the almost two-hour show before he even addressed the crowd. Yet it seemed to work in his favour because as the saying goes, “treat them mean, keep them keen” - and keen they were.
“Hey yo Auckland, make some noise,” the star yelled, provoking an immediate reaction of enthused yells and cheers from the crowd. “We gotta thank everyone for coming out tonight,” he said.
He continued his show with hits like Purple Hearts, Swimming Pools and the crowd favourite, King Kunta. But in what may be the most impressive of all his tricks, the MTV VMA award winner barely needed backup dancers because he held the attention of the audience single-handedly.
It was only as we began to near the end of the show that the crowd started to drop off and a few punters made a quick escape while others stayed on to watch.
One fan even described the final 30 minutes of the show as Lamar’s “plummet” but considering it was the rapper’s final show after an international tour, it’s understandable and even heartwarming he would want to spend so long with us Kiwis.
“You best believe it’s got to be the best show on the motherf***ing tour,” the award-winning rapper announced. “It’s been five years since I seen you and it’s an honour to have the most dedicated fans around the motherf***ing world.”
The crowd were impressed with Lamar’s set, which totalled over 100 minutes - and it seems the star was just as impressed with us: “From the bottom of our hearts, we love y’all and we will be back.”
Then with one final bow, he was gone.