The walls and the audience are sweating. The lights are a glowing, bleeding red. Everyone is that exhausted kind of euphoric, the kind of exhausted euphoric you get after you’ve spent the last two hours jumping around to your favourite music. Six figures stand on stage in matching uniforms of loose white shirts and black jeans. They look out at the crowd, and their ringleader holds up his microphone, “Dublin! You have just witnessed the greatest boyband in the world! Thank you!”
I was one of nearly two thousand people who saw Brockhampton perform in the Helix in DCU in August, and when I tell you it was a formative experience I don’t exaggerate.
If you haven’t heard of them, Brockhampton are an “all-American” hip-hop boyband, comprised of rappers, vocalists, producers, graphic designers and more. Their members, to name a few, include vocalists Kevin Abstract, Matt Champion, JOBA, Merlyn Wood, Dom McLennon and bearface. If you have heard of them, you’ll know they’re one of the most up-and-coming hip hop acts of the last few years. It doesn’t take much to see why. Three years since their foundation, Brockhampton have released four full-length albums, each better than the last, the most recent being SATURATION III.
This tour comes at the end of a tumultuous time for Brockhampton. They were scheduled to release a new album in June, but those plans changed in the wake of the departure of founding member Ameer Vann amongst abuse allegations. Instead, their newest album, Iridescence, is scheduled to be released on September 21st. But we’re not here to talk about that.
We waited for nearly an hour and a half inside the concert venue, buzzing with anticipation, but when Brockhampton actually came out, it was almost anti-climactic. Moments before they trouped on stage, one of their producers, the ever-charming Romil Hemnani appeared. He was unassuming, setting himself up at his deck, perhaps not expecting the whole crowd to start cheering once they recognised him. That’s the beauty in Brockhampton that so many other collective acts lack – everyone who contributes to the music is worthy of the credit, and the fanbase appreciates it.
We were still riding off the high of seeing Hemnani when the introduction to one of the newest songs, “1998 TRUMAN” began, and the crowd totally lost it. The energy in that moment is unmatched by anything I have ever felt.
Though they’ve only been touring for about a year, I have to say that Brockhampton are masters of a balanced setlist. They start with strong songs like “TRUMAN,” one that requires the most from each of the members and of the audience, but still manage the difficult task of not over-exerting themselves as well as showcasing each of their talents.
Throughout the concert, we heard some of the group’s most popular and energetic songs, to which we, as an audience, gave every ounce of energy that Brockhampton gave us. One such song, for example, would be “GOLD.” Together, everyone in the room shouted the hook, “Keep a gold chain on my neck, fly as a jet, boy better treat me with respect,” over and over again like it was a prayer. Another one would be BOOGIE. It was the closing song, and it was our duty as an audience to muster every last ounce of energy to give it all we had. “BOOGIE” is arguably the loudest and the most aggressive song of Brockhampton’s discography. We immediately gave it all we had, from the second it began we were leaping and screeching. The song contains the lyric “Best boyband since One Direction” and honestly, they make you sure of it as it is: a fact.
Part of Brockhampton’s genius in setlist design is the way that they were able to let certain members rest while also letting the vocalists show their own unique abilities, for example, “RENTAL.” One of Brockhampton’s most relaxed songs, with even its rap verses sounding pretty melodic, it is one of a few songs that allows both Abstract and Champion to showcase their talents as vocalists, while McLennon ties it all together with his witty and artistic verse. “FACE,” another song, is melancholy and is pervaded by JOBA’s chorus “Tell me what you’re waiting for/ I just wanna love ya.” It was finished with a mix of a stellar high note and a primal scream. We were all blown away, hairs on the back of necks standing up universally, followed by all of us chanting “Joba! Joba!”. bearface, who hadn’t really been in the limelight thus far, performed “SUMMER.” He was given his guitar and he illustrated both his talent as a singer and a skilled guitarist. He was lit up by a white spotlight, making him look almost angelic.
Watching Brockhampton perform, it was almost impossible to believe that this was their third show in as many days, even with Abstract starting off the show by apologising for his voice being shot. They were constantly jumping and dancing across the stage, each member hyping up the crowd as much as the crowd was hyping up them. They made it look easy – which I can tell you, after being at the gig for two hours, it certainly wasn’t. Brockhampton possess a certain kind of magic that can’t be manufactured, a kind that will take them far. I hope you come along for the ride.
By Robin Daly, Music Writer