Kendrick Lamar dazzles at FEQ and promises, “I’ll be back!”

Photo: Renaud Philippe, courtesy of FEQ

Kendrick Lamar put his poetry in motion on North America’s largest concert stage.

Renowned hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar highlighted the first weekend of Quebec City's 50th Festival d’Été (FEQ), and to no surprise, he delivered a show to remember.

“Loyalty, got loyalty inside my DNA,” is a phrase that immortalized the California native in the collective minds of his fans. It was featured on the hit single that Lamar released as part of his most recent solo set, Damn, and one that ignited a young, exuberant crowd at the Plains of Abraham on the evening of July 7.

Lamar is a multi-Grammy-Award-winning artist with four critically acclaimed studio albums under his belt, three of which are platinum-certified and currently being debated as classics. What’s no longer up for debate? The notion that he’s become the cream of the crop in his genre of music.

Why is that? Probably because he checks off all the boxes as a songwriter/entertainer in his space. Ability to tell a story? Check. Imagery? Check. Lyricism? Without a doubt. Flow, charisma, creativity? You bet. Perhaps more importantly, his words have genuine value. Behind every album lies an important message that carries meaningful weight when you consider the influence he has on his listeners, and the impact he has on the African-American community during a period of civil unrest.

On Friday evening, Kendrick Lamar put his poetry in motion on North America’s largest concert stage, and, with the help of his band, left no doubt that he’s a once-in-a-generation, first-class performer admired around the world.

After opening with an intense rendition of “DNA” and a two-part version of “Element,” also from Damn, Kendrick transitioned to his socially conscious album To Pimp A Butterfly and ingratiated himself with the masses with the funky “King Kunta.”
Then the unexpected happened. Due to computer-related difficulties, Kendrick was forced to take a break.
Five minutes felt like an eternity for a sea of boisterous fans.​

“They tried to [mess] up the show, but we’ll go on all night if we have to,” said Kendrick, who reappeared with the same passion and fire he began the show with. Naturally, the fans went ballistic and the show rolled on smoothly from there, the energy never fading.

Lamar raised the bar with a fan-favourite in “Swimming Pools” that prompted people to recite the lyrics as if it were a national anthem. Other noteworthy joints included “Levitate” from Untitled Unmastered and “Goosebumps” sans Travis Scott. Roars echoed around downtown Quebec City as the intro to “Backseat Freestyle” began.

Like a chess master orchestrating a move, Kendrick channelled the crowd’s energy with “Humble” before slowing the pace down with “Pride.” He then blew the lid off with his sophomore album hit “M.A.A.D City.” Not long after, he indelibly turned the scene into a frenzy with the euphoric “Alright,” the crowning moment of the evening.

Although some had a gripe with the concert culminating with the song “Love,” a more relaxed track devoted to intimacy and relational commitment, the vast majority of festival-goers left satisfied.

The overall visual presentation (which revolved around martial-arts themed action undertaken by Lamar's alter ego, Kung Fu Kenny) lacked a certain flair, but all in all, the concert was thoroughly enjoyable. After all, this was Kendrick freakin’ Lamar, a musician so gifted, versatile, and influential that trying to tag him to a single category wouldn’t do him justice. By all means, this was a live performance to cherish.

Lamar concluded by thanking everyone for inspiring him and providing him with the courage to perform in front of a live crowd. But he didn’t leave without promising, “I’ll be back!”

Whether or not he returns to what has evolved into a legendary summer music festival here in Quebec City, Kendrick has earned the right to have his name attached to the pantheon of all-time hip-hop greats.