Pop-rap group BROCKHAMPTON captivated The Anthem on Nov. 25 as part of their Heaven Belongs to You Tour and in promotion of their 2019 album “GINGER.” The group’s live performance struck an excellent balance between hard-hitting and melancholic across a wide stylistic range of tracks, with each performance more powerful than the last.
BROCKHAMPTON has fashioned itself into one of the bigger names in pop-rap. The group, with the performing members Kevin Abstract, Merlyn Wood, Matt Champion, JOBA, Dom McLennon, and bearface, is known for its ability to craft both heart-wrenching melodies and energized bars. After the high-profile departure of Ameer Vann in 2018 for allegations of sexual misconduct, however, the group has struggled to rediscover its artistic voice, a prevailing storyline in their live performances since his departure.
BROCKHAMPTON followed two openers, American experimental duo 100 gecs and British grime rapper slowthai. 100 gecs performed in costume after erecting a tree in the middle of the stage that they later removed and the brightest moment of slowthai’s lackluster set came when playing his feature on Tyler, The Creator’s “WHAT’S GOOD.”
The show opened on a somewhat odd note, as a prerecorded version of Rihanna’s “Stay” began playing as Abstract strolled onto the stage, also covering portions of the song. While strange, this choice provided an apt opening for Abstract, who has regularly shared his adoration of some of today’s pop stars, including Rihanna and Harry Styles.
At the tail end of the song, each member came out onstage to raucous cheers. Opening with a compilation of “ST. PERCY” and “IF YOU PRAY RIGHT,” each of which featured particularly impassioned performances from McLennon, the group took a moment to bask in the rise of their stardom. Each member stood at the back of the stage for several moments, looking at each other and smiling, showcasing the powerful chemistry that makes the group so successful.
The high energy of this moment did not let up as subsequent tracks “BOY BYE” and “I BEEN BORN AGAIN” made it seem as if the group was taking a victory lap. The stage design also contributed to this sensation, as all that could be seen onstage was one small screen for lights and three overhead cross-shaped structures, which provided oscillating vibrant light effects. The group knew that stage theatrics were not necessary to captivate the audience; their boisterous and fun-loving performance styles would speak for itself.
The show then took a more introspective turn, as the group pivoted to playing arguably its defining song, “BLEACH.” The track, which features every member of the group, was a watershed moment for them, both in their careers and in the concert. Pensive lyrics about inner conflict and struggle showcased the duality of the group’s discography while also adding a necessary transition in the show, from high-energy to self-reflective.
After, the group also played now classic songs off the “SATURATION” trilogy which catapulted BROCKHAMPTON to fame in 2017, including “GOLD,” “GUMMY” and “QUEER,” a couch was brought on stage for the members to sit on and perform.
A couch served as a common motif in both their marketing and performance, as it became a de facto logo for the group throughout their rise to fame. This reintegration of the couch, something which was absent from their “iridescence” shows last year as the group attempted to distance itself from their past with Vann, shows a return to the roots of the group as a relatable and quirky collection of voices that stands out from the current hip-hop landscape.
The concert ended on a high note as the 90-minute performance was wrapped up by “BOOGIE” and “NO HALO.” The former of these tracks is the opener for “SATURATION III” and is the highest energy track they have ever recorded. It almost seemed like the group was testing the stamina and willpower of the exhausted crowd by performing such a heavily involved song. Finally, “NO HALO” was the perfect closer to the wonderful concert; an in-between of the introspection and high energy that defines the group’s discography, which also featured stellar performances from Champion and bearface.
BROCKHAMPTON recognizes its star power and attempts to create an intimate environment and performance in spite of it, something that is more reflective of the 500-person venues that defined their early career than of the 3,000-person venues they play today. By maintaining a level of energy which it wants matched by the audience and fashioning a spirited performance even deep in the middle of a grueling tour, BROCKHAMPTON succeeded in creating an engaging concert experience that few pop-rap acts can match today.