Kendrick Lamar Sensational at the 3Arena

by James Hendicott
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Hip-hop’s growing status in Ireland was hammered home last week, as Kendrick Lamar delivered a breathtakingly brilliant performance at the 3Arena (two nights in a row, we hear, though we were only in attendance for the second), in front of a crowd that, even on a Monday night, was bordering on frenzied. 

The California rapper, playing his first non-festival show in Ireland since a manic appearance at Vicar Street way back in 2013, has transformed himself from the incendiary musical force of his early days, to the kind of performer who blends that brilliance with something bordering on theatre. 

In a set stretching to nearly 30 tracks, he’s lifted above the audience in a smoke-filled cube, uses cleverly adapted silhouettes to perform in front of fish and spiders, and has his backing dancers transform the stage into something akin to a fireside tribal event. 

There’s a flow, now, to Lamar. 9 years ago it felt like his short sets were turned up to 11 from start to finish. Now, there are moments of sublime subtly in amongst the brash and brittle rallying against aspects of modern culture, from racism to a rallying cry for post-Covid revival. 

The Guardian recently touted this ‘Big Steppers Tour’ show as perhaps the greatest hip-hop show of all time (support acts Baby Keem and Tannie Leone were both superb and vibrant, too). We’re not really qualified to make such a statement, but there’s no doubting that it is beyond brilliant; a vital and stunningly curated offering that’s a blazing front, but also considered, delicate and full of depth. In short, it’s the kind of show that sweeps you up for a week in its glorious, head-fuzz of an aftermath.

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