Another great show on a freezing day; I’m starting to see a pattern here (or maybe it’s just Canada). J. Cole was last in London in 2011, touring in support of his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story. More than 2 years later, he returned with the Dreamville crew to a sold out Music Hall. To put that into perspective, it’s a venue that can hold 2000+ people…at capacity. As if that wasn’t enough, the queue of people snaking around the corner outside in the freezing cold was pretty humbling as well. Even before the show, when news of the sold-out show got out, there was a mad scramble for overpriced tickets on Facebook, with prices exceeding $100. All of these instances raised the expectations and excitement of the crowds to a fever pitch and I am happy to say that J. Cole did not disappoint.
As I finally made my way inside, I happened to catch the tail-end of The Heavy Heavies’ set, which was definitely counter-intuitive in the night’s context but they were having a great time on stage which in turn made the audience enjoy themselves. We got the chance to talk to them a bit after the show, they were still in shock and in disbelief the opened for J.Cole. Special thanks to the London Music Hall for that opportunity.
At the end of the set, the venue was already packed, surprising given it was only around 9:00pm but not so surprising once you consider the headlining act. Rather than make us wait for a few hours, we were treated to fellow Dreamvillain Bas gracing the stage with a short and playful but banging set which had enough weed references to get some people in the crowd to spark up. Bas even brought out labelmate and friend Omen to go through a few songs, which sounded amazing. It didn’t matter that most people in the audience weren’t familiar with their work, because they were visibly turning up. Keep an eye out for Bas’s “Last Winter” and Omen’s “Elephant Eyes”. If the crowd’s reaction was any indication, both these projects will be bangers.
As both Omen’s and Bas’s sets drew to a close, the audience started getting even more excited. Bas got us all to scream our lungs out, in order to draw J. Cole out of the dressing room backstage. Cole’s band got set up, the intro movie went on and the show began.
The gorgeous back-up singers got into those opening notes and Cole burst out to “Trouble”. From here on out, it was pure entertainment as J. effortlessly and energetically segued from song to song, pulling the audience with him throughout. After “Trouble” came “Land of the Snakes” and after that came “Blow Up”. This pattern pretty much set the tone for the rest of the show, with Cole switching up between songs from “Born Sinner” (“Runaway”, “She Knows”, Forbidden Fruit”, “Rich Niggaz”) as well as some of his older hits (“In The Morning”, “Lights Please”) all the while including his huge radio singles (“Work Out”, “Who Dat”) so the newer fans weren’t left out of the mix. Occasionally taking breaks to either introduce his amazingly talented band, or fend off Bas (who stumbled onstage looking for a lighter for a joint) in a short, improvised comedic skit of sorts, there was not a single moment in the show which felt dragged on or forced.
J. Cole closed off the show with an encore that included his 2 singles from “Born Sinner” (“Crooked Smile” and “Power Trip”) and it was absolutely fantastic. As a performer, ending the show on a high note is probably the most daunting task but Cole handled it with ease, shouting out random people in the crowd as the music reached a crescendo and finally culminated in a climax that left us all immensely pleased (there’s a dirty reference in there somewhere…).
All in all, J. Cole showed us how far he’s come since his first London show in 2009 (when he was opening for Jay-Z) and that he does deserve all this praise as a supreme lyricist, performer, and artist. His ascent doesn’t stop here, it merely continues. Tell ME what your favourite part of the show was and what you thought about the concert in the comment section below. Special thanks again to London Music Hall for another amazing show.
Review by Bilal by for The Come Up Show.
Photography by Eddy Rissling for The Come Up Show.