A Closer Look at BROCKHAMPTON (Concert Review)
Brockhampton is special.
Above all else, if the group of 13 rappers, producers, designers, directors, managers, and artists will be remembered for anything, it will be for being unique, vibrant, colorful, honest, and special. I discovered BROCKHAMPTON about a year and a half ago, and on October 20th, 2018 I was happily reminded exactly why they’re so special.
Iridescence released to a flurry of fanfare immediately after its debut, with almost universal acclaim. However, after a wild summer which involved losing the ‘face’ of the group’s SATURATION trilogy, Ameer Vann, and an indefinite postponement of their summer themed “PUPPY”, the group was shook. They took their time (about a week or two) and delivered an exhilarating, emotional 48 minutes of mildly experimental pop rap, the likes of which other groups can only dream of creating.
Though faltering slightly compared to the near flawless SATURATION series, a ‘Team Effort’ that showcased the boys at their most cohesive and magical, iridescence showcases BROCKHAMPTON at their most vulnerable. As a longtime superfan of the group, this left me both excited for their inevitably equally fun follow up albums, (which I personally believe will be a stark contrast to the sadder, angrier soundscapes of iridescence) but also slightly weary of their upcoming show. I had one question going into the show: BROCKHAMPTON is coming back, but are they bringing the magic?
My main concern was how a group known for their fun, colorful, catchy hooks, energetic beats and unique personality could translate their immense live energy into a dark, moody, and exhilarating experience, then “Weight” came on.
The set started late, Kevin Abstract came on stage alone and started rapping his emotionally charged first verse. As the booming bridge echoed throughout the now near-silent arena, I felt a slight quiver in my lip, and I sniffled like a sick Canadian at a hockey game to make that near tear go away. Emotions flying through me as adrenaline and dopamine were now swirling around me in anticipation of the amazing beat drop. The breakdown came in, with all the members of the group running on stage dancing, lights blasting throughout the arena, fans going delirious. Here it is: BROCKHAMPTON magic, in the flesh.
If you’ve never seen them live, its hard to describe the kind of energy the group is able to vividly evoke. There are only a few songs that are such a perfect microcosm of what BROCKHAMPTON magic feels like and “JOUVERT” live is one of them. A truly visceral experience, it was my most anticipated song of the entire set.
This was just one of the hyper-aggressive, abrasive, almost industrial bangers they’ve dabbled making. “HEAT,” “BUMP,” and “JUNKY” are the most notable of these, all of them fan favorites and all of them absolutely breathtaking live. “JOUVERT” continues the tradition of Brockhampton being pissed off about something on each of their albums, this time it’s Joba delivering his most powerful, energetic, unhinged verse of his career. “Misunderstood since birth, f**k what you think! And f**k what you heard!” There’s nothing more exhilarating than hearing someone genuinely venting their deepest stresses, at least that is until BH started playing some of their SATURATION classics.
Though each of these classics were missing a verse from Ameer, they didn’t seem to phase the flow and chemistry of the group as they seemed as solid as ever performing the very songs that got them here. “GOLD,” “STAR,” and “SWEET”– all songs that are guaranteed to be performed at every BROCKHAMPTON show for the rest of their career.
These songs all went without a hitch at the live show (despite some notably confused crowd sing-alongs when the Ameer verses were skipped over). Some outliers in their classic performances for me were “SWAMP,” “BLEACH,” and “BOOGIE.”
It’s quite ironic that the four performances that resonated the most with me were of four what I’d argue as my top seven favorite Brockhampton songs. I say this because I can’t imagine ranking the worst of the bunch any lower than their seventhth best song. “JOUVERT” I already discussed as being the highlight of the show. “SWAMP” on the other hand was probably the most lowkey, relaxed and carefree I’ve seen the boys since last fall.
I love “SWAMP,” and since its release as a single in the greatest promotional buildup for an album ever (This single came out after “GUMMY” and a week before “JUNKY”, and two weeks before “SWEET”). I’ve loved the laid back/chill beat, the dangerously catchy repetitive hook and the riding-your-bike-down-a-suburb-with-your-friends flow that each member brings to the table.
It’s just such a fun, cozy song and exactly the kind of song I didn’t think they’d perform on this tour. However, I’m incredibly thankful they did, as it showcased to us all that they aren’t still down on themselves and they’re moving on from the tumultuous early summer and thinking of the vibes they were living out this time last year.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, I knew they couldn’t get away with skipping out on “BLEACH.” It’s one of the most unique hip-hop tracks released in the last few years. Combining somber rapping and beautiful singing with a woozy and almost drunk beat, the song perfomred live was emotional, catchy, beautiful. It cemented BROCKHAMPTON as a group that was more than just flash– they had the substance.
Their live performance of “BLEACH” in February at the House of Blues was one of the most beautiful pieces of civil engineering I’ve personally ever been a part of. The whole crowd was singing the chorus on pitch together.
However at Agganis, the boys decided to give the song an orchestral backing track as opposed to its usual beat. This was something that intrigued me at first and had me waiting for the big energetic switch up to the ‘real’ beat and to bring us all back to a simpler time…but it never happened. The beat never switched and the song felt like a tease of what could have been and in some ways, so does BROCKHAMPTON itself.
If “JOUVERT” is the culmination of the anger and intensity that BROCKHAMPTON is capable of, then “BLEACH” is the pinnacle of not only their emotional depth, but the group as a whole. Just as I was hoping to see them do something different with the performance, we all wanted to see them thrive after SATURATION 3’s success and though they’ve certainly grown, the biggest question that remains is, what if?
There are so many instances where that question is relevant to BROCKHAMPTON. What if Ameer wasn’t removed? What if SATURATION wasn’t a trilogy? What if someone left and went solo? But the one question that was answered at the very end of the show was this: What if BROCKHAMPTON put all that guesswork aside and just did what they love?
At the time of its release, “BOOGIE” is the most fun, exhilarating, colorful and playfully hype BROCKHAMPTON song ever made and to this day the song is literally synonymous with getting up on your feet and dancing like no one’s watching.
The entire crowd felt that energy after BROCKHAMPTON tried to fake out everyone in the arena by leaving the stage after the emotional outro “FABRIC.” However, we all knew what was coming. We might not have known exactly what it would be, but BROCKHAMPTON is not one to leave on a quiet note, so we were prepared.
“Alright guys we have time for one more song…”
The crowd loses their mind as that BROCKHAMPTON magic fills the air, the beat from “BOOGIE” blasting throughout the arena with reckless abandon, everyone dancing like no one’s watching.
For a group whose fans include just about everyone who feels left out, discriminated against or just doesn’t fit in. To see a crowd of those kinds of people just like me, not afraid to dance their hearts out, shows something more abstract about BROCKHAMPTON and something to leave you thinking about.
Even if BROCKHAMPTON were to never make another project, their undisputed impact on youth culture is unparalleled. Specifically, for all those that haven’t had anyone to look up to or were too scared to be themselves in an increasingly critical world, this show was enough to justify every project, song and artistic decision BROCKHAMPTON has ever made to date.
Whether they know it or not, they’ve already changed the world and seeing a stadium full of insecure teens dancing around to a group rapping about their lives and insecurities is something that sounds dumb on paper, but is the definition of BROCKHAMPTON magic.