Rap group BROCKHAMPTON rocked The Anthem on Oct. 16, as part of the I’ll Be There Tour promoting its fourth album, “iridescence.” The band’s mediocre performance at points proved that it is fumbling with its identity.
The self-proclaimed “greatest boy band in the world” exploded onto the music scene in 2017 with the release of the “Saturation” trilogy, three of the most well-received albums of the year.
Yet 2018 has been mired in controversy for the group: Founding member Ameer Vann was kicked out of the band in May after accusations of sexual misconduct became public. This performance was one of their first in North America after Vann’s removal; in the lead up to the show, fans were curious to see how the group would perform without a key member.
The stage design looked simple and understated. Giant LED screens backed the performance, alternating between showing video of the concert itself or music videos of the tracks, both of which were altered using thermal-based effects. The screen framed the performances beautifully and added an unexpected element of color and excitement.
The group’s use of live instrumentation, namely a violin, was a surprising aspect of the show but reaffirmed the somber mood of the show and served to reinvent the instrumentals of tracks like “SWEET” and “BLEACH” to fit the band’s new aesthetic. The instrumentation also served as instrumental backing for the short vignettes of blinking eyes that played during breaks in the show on the screens.
Coming onto the stage shortly after 9 p.m., Kevin Abstract, the group’s frontman, made clear that the show would not be a performance to forget. Each band member wore a black jumpsuit that prominently featured the face of someone who inspired them, ranging from Shia LaBeouf for Abstract to Jesus for Joba. These outfits are a change from the notorious bright orange jumpsuits they wore throughout their “Saturation” tours, again highlighting the somber tone in their performance.
Opening with a solo and emotional rendition of “WEIGHT,” Abstract rapped about how fame has transformed the group members’ lives. The rest of the band — including Dom McLennon, Matt Champion, Joba, Merlyn Wood and Bearface — joined Abstract on stage and finished off the song passionately.
After a lengthy 10-minute break during which the stage lights turned off while the band oddly stayed on stage, the group re-energized the crowd performing “Saturation”-era tracks “ZIPPER” and “QUEER.”
Vann’s absence became evident when the group performed “GUMMY” and “STAR,” tracks that feature extended verses by Vann. The group chose to omit and skip the verses entirely, creating awkward transitions in the musical flow of the songs.
The band’s performance of “TONYA” immediately following these two tracks seemed almost to be a comment on Vann’s exclusion. The single was the first released by the group after Vann’s removal and features lyrics about unstable stardom. The band members turned their backs to the crowd during the performance of the song, highlighting the poignancy of the subject matter.
The group subsequently jumped back into the energized show, performing fan-favorites “GOLD,” “SWAMP” and “SWEET.” Finishing off its initial performance with more tracks of its new album “iridescence,” including the standout “J’OUVERT,” BROCKHAMPTON left the stage with fans still wanting more.
After a few minutes of animated chanting and screaming, the band returned to the state stage and performed a three-track encore, punctuated by “BOOGIE,” the track that served as the opener during its last North American tour. With this final burst of energy and excitement, BROCKHAMPTON satisfied its passionate fanbase with a show few would forget.
The standout performer throughout the show was Joba, with unmatched joyful energy and powerful delivery. Joba has always been one of the most exciting voices in the group, displaying a wide range in vocal style throughout the band’s discography: His performance Tuesday matched this dynamism.
Aside from Joba, no individual member was spectacular. Wood and Champion seemed content and jolly as usual, while Abstract and Bearface were generally more somber, befitting the mood of their newer music. Interestingly, McLennon’s energy seemed to dwindle as the show progressed, with him even stepping off stage during the performance of “SAN MARCOS,” which ended the first portion of the show.
The imperfect nature of the performances reflected the flawed, reeling state of the band after the expulsion of Vann. Its performance, while still energizing and passionate, was not entirely what fans of BROCKHAMPTON have come to expect. Maturation was inevitable for a group like BROCKHAMPTON; its live show, while still electric, showcased the changes the band has experienced in the past year.