The end of this month will see Kendrick Lamar headline Reading & Leeds 2018. A slot indelibly linked to the likes of Nirvana, Pulp, Blur, Muse and Oasis and the landmark moment when a guitar band enters the annals of rock history (unless you’re The Darkness or Razorlight).
Just as when Jay Z and Kanye were announced for Glastonbury, this year’s placing of Kendrick at the top of the bill from R&L led to the predictable complaints from guitar purists who would apparently prefer the endless carousel of dinosaurs and six-string anthems to repeat line-ups year after year until the world ends to the sound of ‘Wonderwall’.
“You can’t keep drumming up the same acts and expect people to continue to come and see them,” said Reading boss Melvin Benn in defence of the line-up. “Festivals have to be a reflection of what the public are listening to”. Amen. A man with a message, adventurous ambition and a flawless run of records to date, each more essential than the last, there’s no doubt that Kendrick is the headliner that 2018 needs. But still, there’s no pleasing gammon. Now, he’s rumoured to be topping the bill at Glastonbury 2019 too. We can already hear the groaning of dinosaurs, but if what we saw at Øya 2018 last night is anything to go by, their extinction can’t come soon enough.
From off with the quickfire rush of ‘Kung-Fu Kenny’ into ‘DNA.’ and ‘ELEMENT.’, Kendrick immediately whips up a reaction more feral than the previous evening’s headliners Arctic Monkeys and Arcade Fire combined. The bounce of ‘King Kunta’ and the ecstasy saved for the already-classics ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’, ‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe’ and ‘HUMBLE.’, Lamar effortlessly redefines what it is to be a rockstar.
With just some Japanese B-Movie visuals, a backing track and the assured swagger that can only come from the inherent self-belief that the stage belongs to him and he needs to be heard. Whether here in Norway, at Reading later this month, Glastonbury next year or any festival, any time, Kendrick will make it feel like you’re witnessing history in the making. Sorry, gammon.
Kendrick Lamar’s setlist was:
Big Shot (Kendrick Lamar & Travis Scott cover)
goosebumps (Travis Scott cover)
Collard Greens (ScHoolboy Q cover)
Swimming Pools (Drank)
Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe
All the Stars (Kendrick Lamar & SZA cover)
Øya Festival continues with performances from St Vincent, Lykke Li, Patti Smith, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Boy Pablo, J Hus and many more. Check back at NME for the latest from Øya 2018.