As he referenced in the track “United In Grief”, that was how long it had been since Kendrick Lamar released new music prior to dropping “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” in May.
As anticipated as the album release was by the music world, the ensuing tour for the album was equally as anticipated.
The stop at Footprint Center in Phoenix on September 10 — and the 36th on The Big Steppers Tour — met every single expectation imaginable. Viewed by many as one of the greatest rappers of all time, Lamar did not disappoint.
Walking into Footprint Center, there was an excited buzz in the concourse when the gates opened, and that transitioned to the arena as everyone eagerly awaited the show.
Lamar brought two pgLang signees on the road with him to open his show: Tanna Leone and Baby Keem.
Getting started just prior to 8 p.m., Leone’s set was rather brisk — the 13-minute performance was highlighted by a few tracks from his recently-released album entitled “Sleepy Soldier.”
Despite not being a household name, Leone put on a good show and did a good job of warming up the crowd.
After a break that lasted about 10 minutes, Keem hit the stage.
Keem performed a few tracks and said he liked the energy in the crowd. He certainly wasn’t wrong for feeling that way; based on the way the audience treated him, one might have believed that he was the headliner. Keem, who is Lamar’s cousin, is one of the quickest ascending artists in the rap game.
He spent about 25 minutes showcasing some of his most popular tracks, including a few from his album “The Melodic Blue.” As his set came to a close, the very-engaged crowd began chanting his name.
It would not be the last we saw of Leone or Keem throughout the night.
A 20-minute break after Keem’s set had the audience’s anticipation at an all-time high. As the lights dimmed to indicate Lamar’s appearance, everyone began chanting his name.
As an elongated beginning of “United In Grief” started, dancers filled the walkway to the stage that extended into the pit and the crowd roared in approval. This would be a theme for the show as dancers often joined Lamar on stage throughout his set.
When Lamar finally appeared playing the piano, he was rapping the track and an almost larger-than-life feel filled the arena. Whether intentional or not, Lamar makes you feel like you are witnessing one of the all-time greats at work.
Throughout the entirety of the show, that larger-than-life feeling never went away.
Lamar then transitioned to “N95” and as the track began, the entire crowd, seemingly at least, rapped along every single word. It was clear the audience was filled with some serious fans.
Lamar’s set did focus on the album the tour was set to represent, but he also performed songs from the classic albums “good kid, m.A.A.d city”, “To Pimp a Butterfly” and “DAMN.”
Intermixed with tracks from “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers”, Lamar performed “ELEMENT.”, “HUMBLE.” and “m.A.A.d city.” He jumped from album to album throughout the night, perfectly showcasing his new work with some of his well-known, older classics.
Prior to performing “HUMBLE.”, a woman’s voice filled the air and asked Lamar a question: “You’ve once again let your ego get the best of you, must I remind you how this went before?”
After partially performing “King Kunta”, “LOYALTY.” and “Swimming Pools (Drank)”, he hit a high point in the show with the performances of “Die Hard”, “B*tch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”, “DNA.”, “Count Me Out” and “Money Trees.”
Throughout the show, curtains covering the main part of the stage would descend and ascend, creating an anticipatory affect. During “Count Me Out”, the curtains rose to reveal a message on the side video boards: “A mask won’t hide who you are inside…”
“Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” puts an emphasis on self-reflection, and that was certainly a theme during his set.
When Lamar performed “Money Trees”, he moved to the furthest part of the extended stage for the first time. Before he started, however, he had a request for the audience.
“AZ, can we take it back to Day 1?” he said. “I need you to help me out.”
The crowd obliged and, similarly to “N95”, rapped along every single word. After he finished the track, he stood in silence for a solid 30 seconds, allowing the audience to serenade him in cheers and applause.
A box then descended from the ceiling to cover Lamar as he performed “Alright”. That track might have had the crowd the loudest it had been all night.
The set then reached new heights — literally.
The stage, with Lamar still in the box, was lifted in the air while he performed “Mirror.”
From there, the box was lifted off Lamar. Exposed on the now 50-foot stage, he began performing “Silent Hill”. By the time the track was over, Lamar had all but been lowered down to the starting level of the stage.
As previously mentioned, it would not be the last time we say Leone or Keem throughout the night. First was Keem.
While the show didn’t have a real “victory lap” per say, Keem reappearing to perform “vent”, “range brothers” and “family ties” with Lamar was maybe the closest it got to having one. The three tracks prompted a real change of pace to the show and the audience did not struggle to keep up.
Leone then reappeared to perform “Mr. Morale” with Lamar.
Lamar wrapped his set with “Savior”. The beginning of track had all 10 of his dancers on the extended stage along with him. As the track neared its end, the dancers, one-by-one, exited the stage, leaving Lamar by himself.
After turning and walking to his piano, he took a seat and thanked the audience for coming out as he was descending below the stage.
Just shy of 11 p.m., Lamar’s performance — featuring 29 masterful songs — was over.