On May 18th2019, a phenomenon struck in the heart of Peckham Rye Lane in London when Tyler, the Creator announced he was going to play a surprise gig at Bussey Building on that day. Unfortunately it was not meant to be, as crowd control issues and would be Spider-Men climbed the building it meant that the performance could not happen. Not long after this, he announced the highly anticipated IGOR Tour, which would see Tyler’s Home Office imposed four year exile from London lifted as he sold out 3 consecutive dates (September 16th, 17thand 18th) in O2 Academy Brixton. Now that Tyler has returned and donned his platinum blonde bob wig, could he meet expectations on the first of his three night residency in Brixton?
They say it’s hard to recreate certain feelings in music; no one understands this saying more than London based fans of Odd Future. In fact, you could argue that no-one understands this sentiment more that OF’s de facto leader, who continues to reinvent himself through a borderline obsessive approach to venture into territory unknown. It is this approach and his madcap persona that underlines his appeal, not to mention how progressive his sound has become. For any diehard fans of ‘The OF Tape’, ‘Radical’ and ‘Bastard’ – or detractors, mind you – seeing Tyler fully realise his heavy influences by N.E.R.D, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West in 2017’s ‘Flower Boy’ and last May’s ‘IGOR’ has been a welcome, organic change to witness. On the last count, it had been 1585 days since the multitalented Ladera Heights born Tyler had performed in London. If you ignored the smell of fresh jerk chicken being made outside the venue, you could literally feel the anticipation in the air!
I had been to O2 Academy on countless occasions over the years but something felt different this time around. I had previously seen AJ Tracey, A$AP Rocky and J Hus among others shut it down at this venue, but they didn’t quite have the same feel as this show. This really was a sell-out show as all the seats on the upper tier were filled, and a quick glance would suggest that the venue was oversold! The heat was searing as if we were all in the jerk drum outside; with a sea of excitable bodies that stood below me greatly contributing to this uncomfortable heat wave. A section of the crowd erupted at the sight of long-time friend and Odd Future contemporary Earl Sweatshirt in the crowd as we waited for the man of the hour to take the stage.
The room got darker while the famed white light on centre stage acted as a call to Tyler, who duly obliged to put the crowd out of its misery. Donning his now signature platinum blonde wig and a fitted yellow suit, Tyler stood inanimate as the coarse synths that form ‘IGOR’S THEME’ blared on the sound system. “Londonnnn” he elongates as the crowd screamed the lyrics, breaking into a joyous dance that enthralled the crowd. It hadn’t even been 5 minutes into his performance and he was clearly enjoying being back in London. “What, it’s been like four years or some shit?”
In his time away from the UK, Tyler’s stage presence had gone up a few notches. He commanded the stage and the crowd with an air of mischievous glee, taking turns to exchange lyrics with the crowd as they sang lyrics back without hesitation. The stage set-up was relatively lowkey, Tyler performed in front of some drapes, a grand, bone white piano and a small, black podium. His biggest prop surprisingly turned out to be his audience. As he ran through dance-friendly ‘I THINK’ and the dreamy fan favourite ‘A BOY IS A GUN*’ the crowd relayed his every word with a joyous enthusiasm.
Tyler quickly transitioned from the soft, feels inducing side of ‘IGOR’ to incite a riot via track 6, better known as ‘NEW MAGIC WAND’. At this point, I wished someone would open a window as Jerrod Carmichael stated in the intro. The floor beneath me shook as Odd Future acolytes jumped around on the top tier, while a quick glance over the balcony would show several abysses that formed wild moshpits. From there, he moved onto his Kanye West assisted ‘PUPPET’ before taking to the grand piano, playing keys to the tune of IGOR’s lead single ‘EARFQUAKE’ which segued into the Flower Boy favourite ‘911/Mr. Lonely’. The latter song is only 2 years old yet the impressionable crowd sang the words like it had been out a decade.
Despite complaining about being flustered in his fitted suit that resembled sunshine, Tyler’s sense of humour never left him. “Who wants to lick the sweat off me?” was met with loud screams to which Tyler replied “y’all are weird as fuck!”. He took a step back onto his podium and waited as the organs from “IFHY” rang around the venue and the drapes behind him gave off the effect of rain, which added to the dramatic nature of the song. He performed his breakout single ‘Yonkers’ not long after, a juxtaposition of sorts when you consider the more mature direction (naughty jokes aside) his music has taken.
Tyler has always spoken on themes such as sexuality, love and nostalgia, but his recent efforts have built upon the soundscape he was trying to build on 2015’s ‘Cherry Bomb’. Going back to my diatribe on it being hard to recreate certain feelings in music, I feel that Tyler’s music is akin to a time capsule where once you revisit certain parts of his catalogue, feelings that you associate with a period in your life will resurface. Tyler performing the trifecta of ‘She’, ‘Boredom’ and ‘See You Again’ made me think of the dark side of obsession, the angst that comes with loneliness and the nostalgia of young love. Given the way the room swooned during these performances, I clearly wasn’t alone in revisiting the feeling when I first discovered Tyler’s music.
Just before Tyler’s curtain call, he made a play that vindicated my time capsule theory. The room had cooled down a tad and the uber-creative picked the perfect note to end his show and latest album. As soon as the speakers played ‘ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?’ it felt like the crowd was being serenaded at by a pop singer. Serenaded by what is ultimately a break-up song? Your favourite rapper could never!
As I walked out to his finale, the disappointment from that fated afternoon in Peckham was washed away and replaced with the euphoria that every teenager who had their Odd Future phase would recall with ease. Simply put, what a way to end your exile from London!