Live Review: Kendrick Lamar, Sampa The Great

24 March 2016 | 1:17 pm | Sally Anne Hurley

"[The second encore] included a tribute to the late A Tribe Called Quest member Phife Dawg, everyone's lights on their cell phones held up to set the Arena alight."

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Sampa The Great was just that — great. The Zambian-born lyricist exuded energy and the crowd, particularly the moshpit, lapped it up. Another local hip hop star and recent collaborator of Sampa's on For Good, Remi, joined her on stage for some hyping and rapping and the vibes were good - the both of them have enviable flow and are sure to have attracted a new stack of fans tonight.

Chants of, "Kendrick! Kendrick!" echoed throughout the Arena as the middle front section of the moshpit got a bit more animated than the rest of the crowd, surging forward. Shit got loose tonight, you could feel it then, and it's still reverberating now. The main act's band emerged on stage, took a few selfies and then got stuck into warming things up. Our man Kendrick Lamar strolled out, casual but focused, and paused at the mic for an insufferably long time (is he overwhelmed? Contemplative? Trying to create a spectacle?), all while the crowd continued to cry out, frenzied. He smiled, turned around to go have a laugh with his band. Like his Melbourne gig, Lamar turned back and got Sydney going with "This dick ain't... free!" - we knew it was coming, we didn't give a shit. He conducted the audience through the rest of the song - arms rising for the "free", the crowd happy just to be involved. It's then time for Wesley's Theory, the crowd pulsing, practically throbbing, jumping up and down, arms outstretched towards their leader: "How everybody doin' tonight?" Lamar is quite the showman, running across the stage, but he has tempered this with restraint, standing, eyes closed, hands expressive, behind the mic stand most of the time and letting his rapidfire rap take the lead.

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The crowd is skewed young — it means there were a lot of phones out pretty much all the time, which was kind of distracting, and we're not sure how good the footage was going to be on a phone being flung through the air like that. But hey, who can resist that beat? You can't not dance. There were plumes of weed smoke going up often, paired with some uncomfortable in-seat grinding. It seemed that the crowd responded best to tracks off 2012's good kid, m.A.A.d city (say Backstreet Freestyle, Swimming Pools (Drank) and Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe) and 2011's Section 80 - all about the thumping bass, rather than Lamar's experiments with a kind of nu-jazz mash-up. The crowd were practically subdued during verses for These Walls. That's just fine, although the latter gave the band a spotlight under which to shine. But hey, the expected hits got the expected reaction, Lamar said. "Make some noise for yo'self," and followed it up with King Kunta and I to close the main set. They are bloody joyous, a celebration. First encore Alright was an 18,000-strong dance party, a moment of affirmation, and included a tribute to the late A Tribe Called Quest member Phife Dawg, everyone's lights on their cell phones held up to set the Arena alight. Lamar teased us: "Stop, turn this shit up..." before making to leave, "Let's go home". He returned with another, "Nah, we gonna be alright," and a high kick. He left the stage to the Boris Gardiner sample from Wesley's Theory, only to return with a second encore, undertaken crouched, in A.D.H.D. "I will be back. I love y'all."