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Photos: Kendrick Lamar Grows Even More Legendary At The Riv

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 6, 2015 6:30PM

Kendrick Lamar brought his hotly anticipated "first annual" Kunta's Groove Sessions tour to Chicago Thursday night and played to a crowd in front of which the man could do no wrong. Our own expectations were extremely high for the show, and while we didn't walk away fully sated we can't deny the man as a performer is momentous force.

Opening the show was Jay Rock, Lamar's label mate. Rock delivered what by now is a pretty stereotypical hip-hop performance, filled with entreaties to "make some motherfucking noise" as he slaked across the stage backed by a single DJ (and presumably a number of backing tracks since the DJ spent more time on the mic than working the tables). At one point Rock exclaimed, "I know this is Chiraq right? Do y'all wanna get into some gangster shit?" And a capacity crowd—most of whom have probably never actually seen "some gangster shit"—gleefully screamed yes.

During the set change the stage was transformed into what looked like a late night '70s talk show set, complete with lounging couch and fur rug. We expected Lamar to be backed by a full band but when the set began he was only visibly joined by a DJ and live drummer, with his guitarist and bassist making occasional appearances. But the lack of full band didn't detract from Lamar's performance. If Rock was everything stereotypical about a hip-hop show, Lamar showed how a performance could reach beyond and break expected boundaries.

Opening with an extended soulful groove, Lamar stared down the crowd, even as chants of his name grew louder an more fervent. Just at the moment the tension became greatest lamar grabbed the mic and kicked off the show. And everyone in the room subsequently lost their shit. Lamar's physicality and delivery is so powerful, the woman next to me whispered, "He's like James Brown. Seriously."

Lamar's set flew seamlessly from song to song, and his overall performance had more of a free-form jazzbo vibe, but with a sinuous masculinity that added unexpected muscle to the show. Throughout the set Lamar's intensity just grew and grew, leaving the audience sweaty and exhausted.

By the evening's end it was undoubtable that Lamar's star is only growing. We saw him headline the Pitchfork Music Festival in 2014 and the man commanding the stage last night was light years ahead of the person we saw in Union Park just a year ago. We can't wait to see what Lamar will do as a follow-up.