Closing my eyes last night, I couldn’t tell if I was at BROCKHAMPTON’s debut New Zealand show, or a turbulent, surreal ride at Disneyland - as standing on that balcony at Auckland’s Logan Campbell Centre was transformed into a bouncy castle like I’ve never experienced.
And rightly so that the venue was shaking so hard for the hardest working boyband in the world, who celebrated the release of their fourth studio album ‘iridescence’ by performing the fifteen-song-strong album from front-to-back in a truly unforgettable set, accompanied by a fully brand new show, and followed up by another seven songs, as if the full album wasn’t enough.
With an audience of 3,000, and an online audience of countless thousands more (the entire show was live-streamed via the band’s YouTube channel), there’s no doubt that every member of BROCKHAMPTON was feeling the pressure to deliver. A blue carpet and thermal black + white couch graphic set the scene for the performance, which showed more thermal footage throughout the show, all in theme with the band’s new aesthetic.
Having only given the New Zealand audience just under 24 hours to learn the lyrics to every song on the album, the six members on-stage didn’t deliver a perfect rendition of every song on the album - but that wasn’t really the point. The album, 'iridescence', is a culmination of the band’s past whirlwind year, made in 10 days in London at Abbey Road Studios, and an album that almost didn’t exist (in their new documentary ‘The Longest Summer In America’, Kevin Abstract remembered pushing the band to go on the UK tour, and to push through the pain and struggle that they were all feeling prior to it, after the departure of Ameer Vann), and followed a slew of albums that never made it (‘Team Effort’, ‘Puppy’, and ‘The Best Years Of Our Lives’). But the album feels like pure honesty, and that honesty is what was felt during the performance - regardless of if they forgot the words occasionally, as Abstract apologised.
Midway through one of the album standout tracks, ‘WEIGHT’, Dom McLennon delivered the thoughtful line, “This world is cruel and not as simple as they preach in schools,” and during that same song he took a moment to sit down on the stage and cry, comforted by his friend and bandmate Joba. A chant for McLennon brought him back to his feet and declaring, "I'm just very happy to be alive right now," and he later clarified on social media that his tears weren’t tears of sadness, but of joy, and relief.
Maybe BROCKHAMPTON had to give this performance not only for the fans, but also for themselves.
During ‘J’OUVERT’ (named as an ode to Jabari Manwa’s Caribbean heritage - the term refers to a large street party), Joba’s artistic development shines through like nothing else. During a Q&A in Auckland several nights ago, he revealed perhaps feeling like he’d never contributed enough to previous releases, but this feeling maybe didn’t apply on ‘iridescence’, and he shines through on the album just as much in a live setting. Whether sharing his “war with [his] conscience” on ‘DISTRICT’, or singing earnestly on ‘TONYA’, his versatility knows no bounds.
“These are the best years of our lives,” ends ‘FABRIC’, the final track in the album set-list - a teaser for the rest of the upcoming, recently announced trilogy ‘The Best Years Of Our Lives’, and after the band left the stage, chants and cheering brought them back for what almost felt like a second set of older material. From ‘1998 TRUMAN’ to ‘GUMMY’, fans knew every word, and were even tested at the end of ‘SWEET’, where Abstract started singing hooks for ‘BLEACH’, ‘GOLD’, and ‘STAR’, to which the crowd responded knowingly. Promising that “we’ll come back another time,” before departing for the final time, BROCKHAMPTON made fans for life from the 3,000 strong audience (who sold out the band’s merchandise before the venue had emptied) that will surely multiply even more.
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