His live appearances are few and far between, but the Compton rapper got the levels just right at his only UK summer show.


Kendrick Lamar at British Summer Time festival, London Hyde Park – Saturday 2 July

In what felt like an overdue promise, the sun finally bestowed its gilded goods upon the denim shorts of British Summer Time Festival, the bulk of the day-trippers sat mostly in circles on the grass, gazing adoringly at Cat Power while she seduced with dulcet vocals and red aviators, emoting heavily through two microphones and purring through ‘Lord Help the Poor and Needy.’

Sitting in docile circles is fine for songstress worshipping but not for Jamie XX, whose DJ set has everyone on their feet as he works through ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’, ‘You’ve Got The Love’ and Paul Simon’s ‘Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes’. And then it started hailing, not that the downpour shooed anyone away from the now full main stage, as it was clear that everyone was holding their positions for Kendrick Lamar.


And so the skies cleared (because Kendrick’s force has such influence) and the giant screens became emblazoned with ‘SHE JUST WANNA GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY?’ before two guitarists, a drummer and a keyboardist emerged, taking phone photos of the crowd and generally sending everyone into a frenzy before the rapper had even appeared.

Strutting slowly and quietly – and carrying his mic stand – Kendrick made it to centre stage, wearing a red, white and blue Boy London sweater, standing in silence with a fixed gaze, as the crowd roared. He opened his mouth, pretended to start, and then stopped, teasing us. His hands went up, encouraging more applause and only then, when we had become complete putty in his hands, did he say “this dick ain’t” before turning silent again and making the crowd finish the lyric with a unified “free”.


Kendrick’s confidence is a pleasure to witness because his performance strikes the right balance of restraint and animal abandon; his rap rhythm had the soul of a preacher one minute, as he stood still with a thousand yard stare, and the next minute, he had all of Hyde Park with two hands in the air, bouncing energetically to ‘Backseat Freestyle’, ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’, ‘Complexion (A Zulu Love)’ and ‘m.A.A.d. City’ “You think I’m bullshitting but I’m not,” Kendrick said, pointing to faces he recognised and recalling being in smaller London venues before performing ‘King Kunta’ and closing with ‘Alright’ – “let’s take this to church!” he demanded.

BST was then left to Florence Welch and her Machine, the latter of whom were dressed in black, making the barefoot bohemian further stand out in a flowing blue dress, all vermillion hair and wild as she sang ‘What the Water Gave Me’, ‘Rabbit Heart’ and a stunning a cappella of ‘Shake it Out’. There was the tambourine, her running around, choreographed body jolts timed perfectly with thunderous drums and the almost possessed dramatics that we’ve now come to expect from Florence. And it’s brilliant and it works because my goodness, that voice, those lyrics and the swell of emotion that everyone connected with; dancing and smiling to the big, blue skies as they screamed along to ‘You’ve Got The Love’.