Kendrick Lamar Reclaims His Crown with Masterful Day N Vegas Performance

King Kendrick delivered an explosive career-spanning set for his first performance in over two years

It has been 365 days, times two, since I’ve seen you,” said Kendrick Lamar, as he began an emotionally charged 90-minute set Friday night to close out day one of Goldenvoice’s hip-hop-centric Day N Vegas Festival.

In fact, 741 pages have turned on the calendar since Lamar last took the main stage of Day N Vegas Festival ’19, his last US concert on record.

The performer who emerged amid the skyline of the Strip came with a vibe—explosive, poetic, passionate, true—that reverberated deep into the souls of the 50,000+ festival goers who turned up to see him.

With endless chatter about a new album, departure from label Top Dawg Entertainment and new management, it was anyone’s guess what the enigmatic rapper would deliver to an all-ages audience reeling from one of the most difficult week’s in hip-hop history post-Astroworld.

In 2019, Lamar was so off the cuff at Day N Vegas, day-after buzz had some accusing him of sending in a stunt double in a cowboy hat when they didn’t believe it was really “Cowboy Kenny.”

This year, he was crochet clad in angelical white—an almost Biblical figure.

A riveting tour through Lamar’s catalog, the Day N Vegas ’21 set featured 16 synchronized performers in red suits, ballerinas in tulle, a rush of exuberant children, and protege Baby Keem.

Lamar executed two dozen songs, divided into five acts—one for each of his ground-breaking albums Section.80, good kid, m.A.A.d city, To Pimp a Butterfly, and DAMN. and a finale that featured Keem and an encore appearance by those performers with who he shared the stage throughout the journey.

During the interlude between each chapter, the lights of the stage went dark and silence fell with Lamar saying “Excuse Me” as if to turn the page into what’s next.

Section.80 gave Lamar the chance to perform works such as “Fuck Your Ethnicity,” “A.D.H.D,” “HiiiPoWeR,” and “Ronald Reagan Era (His Evils”) that had not been heard live this decade.

He followed up with good kid, m.A.A.d city crowd favorites “Money Trees,” “Swimming Pools (Drank),” and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.”

To Pimp a Butterfly brought out “King Kunta” and “Alright,” as well as a first-time live performance since 2016 of “Institutionalized.”

DAMN. built the show to a crescendo with a live debut of “BLOOD.,” as well as “DNA.,” “LOYALTY.,” “LUST.,” and “HUMBLE.””

For the closing chapter, Lamar welcomed “hometown hero” Baby Keem for “Family Ties” and “Range Brothers,” closing with a silent, posed vignette that included his entire dance ensemble. Closing song, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” drew the audience in with one admittance from the lead character.

“Vegas till next time. And when I say next time I mean very soon,” said the Compton rapper, perhaps alluding to both his new album and a future tour.

King Kendrick definitely never left the building—and despite all factors, he keeps coming back better.

Setlist:

Section.80
Fuck Your Ethnicity (First time live since 2012)
A.D.H.D (First time live since 2016)
HiiiPoWeR (First time live since 2014)
Hol’ Up (First time live since 2013)
Chapter Ten (Live debut)
Ronald Reagan Era (His Evils) (First time live since 2012)

good kid, m.A.A.d city
Sherane/Voicemail Interlude
Money Trees
Backseat Freestyle
The Art of Peer Pressure (First time live since 2016)
Swimming Pools (Drank)
Poetic Justice (First time live since 2015)
Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe
m.A.A.d city

To Pimp A Butterfly
King Kunta
i (First time live since 2017)
Alright
Institutionalized (First time live since 2016)
The Blacker the Berry (First time live since 2016)

DAMN.

BLOOD. (Live debut)
DNA.
ELEMENT.
LOYALTY.
LUST.
HUMBLE.

Encore:

family ties (with Baby Keem) (First time performed with Kendrick)
range brothers (with Baby Keem) (First time performed with Kendrick)
LOVE.
Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst (First time live since 2015)

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