There’s a certain innate quality and humble confidence that only Kendrick Lamar could bring to the U.K’s biggest Rock festival at Leeds & Reading. Without courting controversy, he simultaneously proved a case to the naysayers yet again that as far as festivals go in the U.K – Rock is no longer the biggest genre that is pulling in the crowds.
In the same evening that Kendrick was performing on the main stage at Reading, he was also raking in MTV VMA’s at one of the biggest pop industry awards for his contribution to Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ as well as Flying Lotus’s ‘Never Catch Me’ and a gong for his own video ‘Alright’.
Back at Reading, joined on stage last night with his full live band, Kendrick Lamar may have cut a solitary figure on stage but his presence commanded an audience of thousands with a tight setlist of tracks running across 3 stellar albums. Opening with ‘Money Trees’, he set the pace while the crowd sang along from the beginning to the end through tracks like ‘Backstreet Freestyle’, ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’ and even dropped his verse off of ASAP Rocky’s ‘Fuckin’ Problems’. Then came ‘Poetic Justice’ midway through the set and hearing ‘Hail Mary’ with Tupac’s vocal effect roaring across the field last night was nothing short of epic followed by a rapturous reception to ‘M.A.A.D City’ a track that works brilliantly for a full festival effect.
Lamar bathed in red light, had the crowd lighting up their phones and raising them up the air as he segued into tracks from the critically acclaimed album of 2015 ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ through ‘I’ to ‘Alright’ and finally closing up his set with ‘King Kunta’ – only to return to encore and go back to his breakout ‘ADHD’, from his 2011 mixtape ‘Section .80’.
Festivals as we know it are showing the signs of the changing times and as Hip-Hop continues to take centre stage, Leeds & Reading a traditional British heritage Rock festival is all ready to acknowledge that fact. Kanye West may have courted significant controversy as the 2nd Hip-Hop act to headline Glastonbury but watching the crowd going nuts over this 3 day festival – its the old school rock heads who now seem relegated to remnants of a past that is rapidly fading. What’s apparent at a festival like Reading is that fans are no longer genre specific – racing between stages to check out grime, dance and rock artists – it seems that even seeing stages that confine acts to genre specific line-ups no longer makes sense.
At Reading, Kendrick Lamar slotted more comfortably on the line-up than heritage rock acts like Metallica and he points to a future of British festivals where Alt-J, Jamie XX, Boy Better Know and Rebel Sound – are more in-tune with the sound of this generation.
More interestingly, it may just be another pointer to an industry that is rapidly falling out of touch with its own fans – when questioned recently in a survey by Billboard survey, over 50 music execs were asked “What genre of music do you despise the most?” and rap music came in least popular ahead followed by EDM. Maybe it’s time to set personal ‘taste’ aside and wake up to this new music revolution.