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Live Review: Kendrick Lamar + Tuka - Palace Theatre (21.12.12)

Never mind all the scientists, realists and normal people with common sense, all the proof one needed to know the world was not ending on December 21 was at the Palace Theatre on Friday night.

Kendrick Lamar – thankfully upgraded to the Palace after his gig at the Prince Bandroom, a poor live venue, sold out immediately – mentioned at the top of the night that “this ain't a concert, this is a party”, but it had nothing to do with our impending doom.

Kendrick is on too high of a plane right now for the world to end following the reaction to the release of his second album, good kid, m.A.A.d city. It has just been named as the album of the year by hipster bible Pitchfork, among countless other plaudits.

But to the opener, Australian hip-hop artist Tuka, first, who didn't quite complement the headliner; the crowd was disinterested to say the least. Tuka played for half an hour, mumbled through his set as the crowd chatted amongst itself, occasionally breaking to boo Tuka or flip the bird. A DJ set or tunes through the PA would have been a far better warm-up, as was proved when one DJ dropped G.O.O.D. Music's “Mercy” in the wait before Kendrick took the stage.

Surprisingly it would not be until the ninth song - “Money Trees” - that Kendrick played something from good kid, preferring to go with tunes from debut album Section.80 and earlier EPs and mixtapes. Not that it mattered - “Hol' Up” was an early highlight, as was “A.D.H.D.” and “P & P”, the chorus to which was soon being belted out across the venue despite few knowing it.

And that largely sums up the night. The songs the audience knew – everything from good kid and several from Section.80 – were met with boisterous receptions, and it did not take long for the first of many beaming smiles to break out across Kendrick's face. He was genuinely appreciative and at times seemed blown away by the response, at one point bringing his manager on stage - “he told me I shouldn't come to Australia they ain't gonna know anything”.

“Money Trees” is one of many already-anthems from good kid, and it's a testament to Kendrick, given the slow is over six minutes long and is slow for the most part. “Ya bish” has become a catchphrase as popular as any to come from a Kanye or Eminem song in the past decade.

“Backseat Freestyle” was the highlight of the evening, its hard-hitting Hit-Boy beat thrilling the crowd, which moshed and rapped and cheered along. Predictably the majority of the crowd miss the entire point of “Swimming Pools (Drank)” but, much like “Fight For Your Right”, it has quickly become a misinterpreted party anthem, not that Kendrick seemed bothered by it in the slightest.

Being called off stage after the encore Kendrick wanted to play a few more songs before closing the night and sped through “Rigamortis” and “HiiiPower” from Section.80 before declaring “no matter how big this shit gets, I'm always gonna come back” and leaving the stage to rapturous applause and chants.

The only slight complaint I could make is one that is not Kendrick's fault, it's a fault common to all hip-hop shows which eschew live instrumentation – the music can be hard to hear. The beguiling Beach House sample in “Money Trees” could scarcely be heard, nor could the horns in “Rigamortis”. But it's a small complaint to make about what was a great gig.

It is extremely refreshing to see a hungry young rapper so keen to impress. We've had a lot of older rappers visit our shores in recent times (looking at you, Ice Cube, Xzibit) who go through the motions with a carefully crafted set, thrown in a few “all the ladies in the house say HOOOOO”, then collect a cheque and head home. But based on Friday night's evidence, Kendrick Lamar is the most exciting young rapper going around, and he's doing loops around the genre's elder statesmen.