The crowd did not listen to Kendrick Lamar when he told them to sit down on Tuesday night at the Schottenstein Center.
Lamar didn’t merely exist on the Schottenstein stage, he brought it to life. The crowd did not just sing along, the music came over them. From the opening note of “DNA” –– a charting single off his newest album, “DAMN.’ –– the crowd had no choice in the matter, they were there to praise.
The setlist was perfectly crafted to keep the crowd on its toes. Playing hit after hit, there was no lull in the action and no time to look away or else you might miss something spectacular, like Lamar performing his song “PRIDE” while suspended in the air.
He started off the evening with “DNA” and “ELEMENT,” both tracks off “DAMN.,” only to throw the crowd into “King Kunta,” which is arguably the most popular song off the Grammy award-winning album “To Pimp a Butterfly.”
Halfway through his set Lamar slowed it down momentarily for his haunting song “Money Trees,” and stood on a stage in the middle of the Schottenstein Center draped in lights. The crowd took it upon themselves to illuminate him further and waved their phones in unison, enveloping him.
It takes a true professional to command an empty stage. It takes an expert to fill one completely.
Before Lamar filled the stage, however, there were a few hurdles to jump.
The first opener was D.R.A.M., a rapper and singer-songwriter from Virginia, who teetered between wanting to be a risque version of Marvin Gaye and a glorified hype man, failing miserably at both.
When the strobe lights started to roam around the Schottenstein Center during his set, you could not help but notice that not only did it feel empty –– it was. His persistence eventually got the crowd going with his charting hit “Broccoli,” but it was a long fought effort.
YG, a rapper from Compton, California, followed D.R.A.M and played to the crowd, performing popular hip-hop covers like “Get Low” by Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz. At the end of his set, things turned political when a Donald Trump impersonator came out to start up his song “FDT.”
YG fared better at getting the crowd excited than D.R.A.M., but people were restless two hours later and were ready for the main event.
Lamar took what could have been an overproduced and over-complicated show and made it just about the music. The lights were not blinding, and the occasional use of fire always came at the perfect time, almost as if Lamar conjured the flames himself.
Throughout the show, Lamar did not ask for applause. It came like a storm as he nodded in approval of what was happening below his feet. At times, he went to say something and then retreated, letting the crowd continue to roar.