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The DAMN. Tour featuring Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, and D.R.A.M.

August 4, 2017

Seeing Kendrick Lamar live was an obvious bucket list item for someone that is already hailing him as the greatest hip-hop artist ever, so I had my alarm set for ten minutes before tickets went on sale. I have to say I was worried about my chances since I got shut out on Adele tickets last year even though I was similarly prepared. Somehow the Adele show sold out entirely within seconds of tickets going on sale to the public – something I still can’t wrap my head around to this day. So when I had success with Kendrick tickets on my first try I just snatched up the first seats I saw and hoped for the best (more on that later).

For those of you that have read this post about my recent anxiety issues, it will come as no surprise that I decided to pass on driving myself to and from the Tacoma Dome, so I took an Uber to downtown Tacoma and met up with a friend for dinner before the show.

We managed to get to our seats about 10-15 minutes before show time and amazingly – and unprecedented for a rap show – the lights dimmed at 7:29, one minute before the show was scheduled to start and D.R.A.M. came out to perform with roughly half the stadium still empty. I liked D.R.A.M.’s album and consider myself a fan so far, but my buddy had no clue who he was and I really didn’t care to see him perform live so we mostly just talked through his entire set. The crowd didn’t seem to care too much either as they really only responded enthusiastically when he closed out his set with his most popular track “Broccoli.”

I was excited to see Travis Scott. I consider him to be the absolute best of the mumble rap/autotune guys and his Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight is a clinic on constructing hit songs. Needless to say, I was looking forward to seeing him bring that album to life in a live setting.

At this point, I feel it’s worth mentioning where our seats were located. We were located off to the side of the stage in the upper deck about 15 rows away from the top of the dome. In other words, our seats were total garbage. As an adult that can afford nice things for myself, one of my rules is that I don’t go to live events and sit in crappy seats. What’s the point? If I’m going to go to a game or a show, I’m going to cough up the extra money and sit close enough that I feel involved in the action and can actually see the people I came to watch. In this case, I sort of panicked and bought the first seats that were available. Those damn Adele tickets. I would have happily paid $200ish to sit on the floor and be able to see what was happening on stage.

But we were in binoculars territory and the production didn’t help things by adding a smoky graphic to the monitors and making Travis Scott impossible to see on the big screens as well. And the sound was bad too. I don’t know if it was because of where we were sitting or if the sound was actually bad for everyone, but the music sounded more like angry noise and I pretty much couldn’t understand anything Travis Scott was saying throughout his entire set. The lackluster sound, terrible seats, and useless big screens made Travis’ set far less enjoyable than it should have been. Still, the man has a number of hits and his energy was good, so my enjoyment was hindered by the production and not his music or his abilities. I was kind of surprised when Travis closed with “Goosebumps,” his song with Kendrick, because it almost certainly meant they weren’t going to perform it together. The headliner is just never going to pop out for the first time to do a verse on one of his opener’s songs. Still, “Goosebumps” easily got the best reception from the crowd and the Tacoma Dome was jamming during this song.

Finally, it was Kendrick Lamar time and unsurprisingly Kung Fu Kenny’s set had a martial arts theme throughout. Thankfully, the production decided to skip any visual effects on the screen during Kendrick’s set so you could actually see him on the screen and it’s pretty cool to see an artist genuinely smiling because the audience is fully invested in his music. And it was pretty amazing watching the whole audience moving with the songs and singing along. In fact, when Kendrick did “HUMBLE.” he rapped most of the first verse and then let the crowd finish it off and do the rest of the song acapella. It was quite the sight. Something someone like D.R.A.M. wouldn’t be able to pull off. I can’t even imagine how satisfying it would be to have 20,000 people rapping your lyrics in unison while you just sit there admiring how much all your hard work has paid off. Kendrick did most of the songs off DAMN. and a number of classics off Good Kid M.A.D.D. City. “Did ya’ll remember?” Yes, yes we did. Kendrick’s set seemed to have better (but still not great) sound mixing than the two previous acts, but it was still hard to make out a lot of his vocals. For instance, when he did “Bitch Dant Kill My Vibe” I couldn’t hear the verses at all, which was pretty disappointing because that’s one of my favorite Kendrick tracks. In addition to the DAMN. and Good Kid tracks, he also did a few off untitled/unmastered and To Pimp A Butterfly, most notably “King Kunta,” which absolutely brought the building down. My only complaint about his track selections is that he decided to perform “PRIDE.” and “LUST.” but didn’t do “FEEL.” which is a mortal sin. Nobody pray for him.

Kendrick was a great performer, but our seats and the sound really hindered how much I could really enjoy things. I wasn’t blown away like I have been by past shows and, honestly, I was wondering if I wasn’t getting too old for the whole mass audience hip-hop show. I’m not really one to get too involved physically with the music; I just want to watch, enjoy the show, and mind my own business. And I’m still unsure if the sound issue was a me problem or a whole stadium problem. If it was just me then, well, maybe it’s time to start staying home for these things.

Regardless, it was a fun experience and I was happy to see King Kendrick live even if my seats were crummy and the sound mixing was disappointing.

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