Kendrick Lamar travelled to the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans on July 29, 2022 as a part of “The Big Steppers Tour”. The tour comes after the release of Kendrick Lamar’s fifth studio album Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.
There was a lot of hype coming into the tour from fans following the album’s positive reception.
Tanna Leone and Lamar’s own cousin Baby Keem were the openers for the concert.
There was a palpable excitement in the air as I walked into the arena on the 29th.
The first opener, Tanna Leone, delivered a solid performance. Despite a half empty arena and an audience that did not know his music, Leone provided the energy for his performance that the fans lacked.
However, the energy was absolutely there for the next opener Baby Keem. Baby Keem himself is a prevalent, young, promising figure in hip hop. His 2021 debut album The Melodic Blue received a lot of praise from both critics and fans. He played plenty of songs from his album such as “lost souls,” “Range Brothers,” and he closed his performance with the fan-favorite “16.”
The highlight of this opening performance was easily “16.” Although he is a rapper, “16” shows off Baby Keem’s vocal chops with the song’s melodic, morose modulation. After this great closing song, it was time for the one and only Kendrick Lamar.
The crowd buzzed impatiently until the lights shut off for the headliner.
The concert opened just as the tour’s namesake album did. “United in Grief” opens the album and the tour perfectly with its spoken-word introduction detailing Lamar’s hiatus from music. After the intro, the performance was in full swing.
Lamar’s performance featured narration that talks to Lamar’s character of Mr. Morale.
The show’s storyline centers around how Mr. Morale grows and matures as the performance progresses. The storyline of the show ties in Lamar’s new material with his previous hits, such as “HUMBLE.,” “Alright,” and “Money Trees.”
Although the storyline was a big part of Lamar’s show, it was tough to follow at times. By the end of the show, I was more absorbed into the music than any storyline.
Every song performed by Lamar was great; however, his best song performances had to be “Money Trees,” “Mirror,” and the collaboration with concert opener Baby Keem, “Family Ties.”
Saint Paul’s senior Peter Verges had a differing view on the best song performance. “United in Grief was the best because of the puppet Lamar held and his impressive ventriloquism skills. The puppet spoke super fast, and it was really really cool.”
“Money Trees” was made special by a guitar in the background that is not present during the studio album. This touch and many others are part of what made the concert special. Although this experience was not exclusive to just “Money Trees,” hearing the audience together chant the chorus of the song gave me goosebumps, and I will never forget the moment.
The performance of “Mirror” included a very unique set piece with part of the stage rising up with Lamar on it and a physical mirror on the side of the stage that left the audience watching in amazement. No other song left me as impressed with Lamar’s artistry as a performer than “Mirror” did. Outside of the concert performance and set piece, “Mirror” was already one of my favorite songs from Lamar.
“Family Ties” was the only song not performed by just Lamar, as he was joined by Baby Keem. “Family Ties” also had the highest energy from the crowd, as every fan was singing along to Lamar and Baby Keem’s every word, rather than just the chorus. “Family Ties” was also the song I was most exuberant to see performed, and it completely lived up to my expectations.
The combination of openers Tanna Leone and Baby Keem, the unique set pieces, and impassioned performance of Kendrick Lamar made an absolutely fantastic concert experience.
Saint Paul’s senior Emerson du Passage joined me at this concert, and he also has positive feelings on Lamar’s performance. “It was my first rap concert, so it was a new exciting experience. It will absolutely not be my last.”