Suddenly, Brockhampton’s de facto leader Kevin Abstract bounds on stage in a neon green t-shirt to the opening thud of ‘BUZZCUT’ – hollering “WHO LET THE DOPE BOYS OUT?” at Brixton Academy. It kicks off the very first of the self-proclaimed boy-band’s last ever shows.
In January, the collective abruptly announced an “indefinite hiatus”. Accordingly, the setlist for the two London shows they are still honouring – holdovers from before the pandemic – is more of a greatest hits selection than an album tour. Following a chronological path through the former NME cover stars‘ discography, it begins with ‘STAR’ from the ‘SATURATION’ trilogy of mixtapes and ends with ‘DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY’, the bounciest cut from their most recent album, ‘ROADRUNNER’.
There is not a single person in the venue exempt from the compulsion to rise to their feet and move, as Kevin, Joba, Matt, Merlyn, Dom, and Bearface stomp, thrash and writhe through potent, punchy tracks like ‘GOLD’, ‘ZIPPER’ and ‘J’OUVERT’. Abundant use of smoke cannons punctuate the peaks and repeated demands to “get your hands up!” are met with near-religious fervour. Just two songs deep, the boys are forced to halt so they can call for medical attention for fans in the crowd.
In many ways the setlist is perfect. Brockhampton have always made music to turn up to, and the chronological approach highlights the ferocious ramp up of their ambitions across the six projects they produced in as many years. When Slowthai appears for his collaboration ‘HEAVEN BELONGS TO YOU’ the band cede the stage to him for a performance of his own track ‘Doorman’. It’s the sort of generous, musical-broship behaviour of a group known for its ever expanding and contracting membership.
The sheer variety in their catalogue – the flirtatious flex of ‘SWEET’ followed by the wistful melancholy of ‘BLEACH’, or the ballroom-dancing beat of ‘BOY BYE’ into ‘WHAT’S THE OCCASION’s stadium rock – is a testament to the verve with which they approached their time together as a band: as though they were racing against it. The energy in the packed-out venue is electric, but while abundant use of smoke cannons punctuate the peaks, long, silent pauses between songs stall the momentum, preventing the show from being as relentless as the band are capable of.
The show closes with Bearface standing centre stage for the sad and delicate ‘SUMMER’, his solo contribution to ‘SATURATION II’. The swell of applause while the outro plays, echoed by his bandmates sitting behind him, carries the weight of the goodbye being communicated: the mutual gratitude, appreciation, and love. After the band vanish with a choked “see you tomorrow, London” from Kevin, they do not return for one last frenzy – ‘BOOGIE’, perhaps – chants of “one more song!” turn to boos. No one wants to believe it’s over, even as the lights come up and stagehands begin shooing people away. It’s an oddly fitting ending for a band who will always seem to have unfinished business.
‘HEAVEN BELONGS TO YOU’ (With Slowthai)
‘Doorman’ (Cover, with Slowthai)
‘WHAT’S THE OCCASION?’
‘DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY’