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‘Are we still friends?’ – after four years Tyler, The Creator was back playing a show in the UK

Last night in London

You can feel the anticipation in the air at Tyler, the Creator’s first UK show in four years – it feels like the heat of nearly five thousand humans in one room. iPhone lights scatter the audience. The silver lamé on stage shrinks into neat squares, vertical Snapchat rectangles. Double denim is mandatory. The crowd at O2 Academy Brixton – the first of three sold-out nights – skews so young that at 22 I constantly feel like I’m about to be led out back and put down like an elderly dog in a Western.

At 9pm screams rise from the standing section and the entire circle balcony jumps up, as though in a summoning ritual. If the ritual works, it’s slow to have its intended effect. It’s twenty minutes later when the man himself, in full IGOR regalia, actually emerges. The already iconic mushroom wig and yellow suit silence the crowd. Even the spotlight tracing him across the stage shakes, as if it’s also been blindsided by the fact that oh my God, he’s actually here.

The ‘IGOR’S THEME’ instrumental plays while the crowd yells along and chants “Fuck Theresa May”. Tyler stands with the mic by his side, drinking it in, before ripping through half of IGOR. He notoriously hates his own voice, but tonight he sings beautifully without effects. His voice is raw and quakes at moments, but that only underlines the honesty in his lyrics. It’s why his music has spoken to a generation of teenagers.

The lamé backdrop collapses, revealing a grand piano and a shimmering white fringe curtain ripped straight from a ’60s movie. Tyler takes a seat and plays the ‘EARFQUAKE’ instrumental. The audience fills in the lyrics, in a moment of mass communion with the power of great pop songwriting. It’s also extremely funny to hear an entire auditorium stumbling through a Playboi Carti verse in unison.

He doesn’t mention the ban until right before the last song. “I don’t take back nothing I said,” he says. “I apologise for nothing. They can suck my dick.” The only people he wants to make up with are the UK audience who missed out on the growth of one of our era’s greats. He kicks off the last song. “Are we still friends? Can we be friends?” he asks the crowd. Everyone sways, rapt grins on our faces. The floorboards shake.

Tyler, The Creator at London, Brixton Academy, Monday 16 September 2019

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