Concert Review: Kendrick Lamar @ Ottawa Folk Fest

Like its organizers’ other festival, Bluesfest, last night’s Ottawa Folk Festival lineup was a fantastic mixed bag that forced hip hop fans to watch blues, and country fans to watch the most impressive young hip hop artist on the planet – Kendrick Lamar.

Kendrick Lamar

Pictured here, looking to his left. 

The brilliance of Kendrick Lamar is the intelligence of his music. To the untrained eye, a guy singing, ‘bitch, don’t kill my vibe’ might not seem like the most enlightened new artist… and if you feel that way, I’m probably not going to win you over with this concert review.

But, with all great artists, their artistic brilliance is the ability to give something like ‘bitch don’t kill my vibe’ a deep lyrical context and to give their music that perfect mix of being both dangerously nihilistic and mind-blowingly clever.

This performance did THAT justice.

Kendrick Lamar took to the stage backed by a full band that gave his mininimally heavy Good Kid M.A.A.D City album just the right amount of additional heaviness, but were understated enough that the show never devolved into anything self-indulgent. Touring with a full band is an instant way to win over music nerds, and a very nice touch from his label, Mad Dawg Entertainment (bands are more expensive than playing with a laptop).

The band setup also eliminated the cliche hype men running around the stage yelling the last word in each verse. Everything had the right amount of room to breathe and be heard… and some re-versioning of a few parts drove the crowd wild.

Credit is also due to a big, loyal audience who showed up knowing almost every lyric and giving Kendrick the ability to play with the crowd in a big ol’ hip hop sing along.

I have been telling anyone who will listen (probably to the point of annoyance) about how good a musician Kendrick Lamar is for a year now. Getting the opportunity to see what he could do with a big crowd and a good band makes me believe that the next time Kendrick comes to town – it will likely be in a big arena.

At it’s best, this show blew your mind as a brilliant live re-interpretation of a masterpiece album. At its absolute worst, it made your head bob as a heavy-ass hip hop show.

Let us know your thoughts on Twitter: @PeteHatesMusic

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