Brockhampton is one of the best live acts in music right now. If you are a rap fan, Brockhampton’s concerts are well worth your money especially when compared to other rappers. Rap concerts have gained notoriety for artists shouting unintelligible ad-libs, prancing around the stage, and encouraging mosh pits instead of actually performing verses – with Brockhampton, you are guaranteed both a fantastic, dedicated performance and unmatched energy.
Brockhampton announced the HEAVEN BELONGS TO YOU (HBTY) Tour shortly after their fifth album Ginger‘s release this August. I first saw Brockhampton live during the Governors Ball Music Festival in NYC in June 2019. It was the most memorable experience I had at the festival, and I was excited to find out I could attend their HBTY Tour stop at Stanford, California.
Two openers preceded the boy band’s set. 100 gecs, an experimental electronic music duo, was first: lots of audience members had no idea who they are, and their musical style great contrasted with the two hip-hop acts that would follow. If anything, they gained an immense amount of exposure from hopping on this tour. British rapper slowthai received a warmer welcome from the crowd for his up-and-coming star status and feature on Ginger. He thrilled the crowd with the much-anticipated song “HEAVEN BELONGS TO YOU” from the album, where he is the only performer on the track. Even inviting an enthusiastic fan onto the stage to rap with him, slowthai proved himself a promising rising talent.
After slowthai’s set, the crowd impatiently huddled for 30 minutes, occasionally screaming when a new figure — always security or tech personnel — appeared from behind the black curtains. At last, the lights dimmed. A brief remix of Rihanna’s “Stay” boomed as a wall of LED lights filled the stage with an orange glow. Three large mirrored crosses hung from the ceiling, reflecting the stage below. Suddenly “ST.PERCY”’s beat drop revealed the man himself: Kevin Abstract, master orchestrator of the 13-person hip-hop boy band Brockhampton. He commanded the audience’s full attention as he calmly rapped the opening verse with die-hard fans chanting along.
Other members joined Abstract one by one at their verse, and soon, the six performing members of the band assembled as the self-proclaimed “greatest boy band in the world.” With every appearance, the audience grew more excited, and the brutal moshing drove out lots of panicked people who screamed “let us out” and jostled their way to safety. Knowing their fans are incredibly physical and eager to mosh, Brockhampton members made sure to ask during every pause, “Is everyone alright? Is everyone doing okay?” Even though the audience was soaked in sweat and nearly suffocated, they were 100% committed to the band — they shouted a resounding yes.
As the tour’s only Northern California stop, the Stanford concert attracted lots of college and high school students from The Bay area – the age group was mostly late teens and early 20s, with a few rare late 20s and early 30s fans. Early on, Kevin asked, “How are we doing, Stanford?” then “Can I call you Palo Alto?” Amusingly, people couldn’t decide on answering “Yes” or “No.”
The night’s setlist heavily featured songs from Ginger, but Brockhampton made sure to play beloved crowdpleasers from their three Saturation albums released in 2017. Saturation III standouts “ZIPPER” and “BLEACH” thrilled fans early on in the concert, with people chanting along iconic hooks and verses and waving their arms in sync with the band members. “GOLD,” arguably the song that catapulted Brockhampton to fame, was a classic throwback to their first album, Saturation.
Constant audience participation kept the energy high throughout the night. When frequent collaborator Ryan Beatty stepped onto the stage, fans eager to hear “SUGAR” from Ginger whooped and applauded. At first, Kevin teased, “You know the song that goes like, ‘Spendin’ all my nights alone…’? We’re not about to do that one.” The crowd played along and protested, starting to sing Beatty’s chorus. Beatty joined in, and after a few repetitions, the instrumentals finally began playing to everyone’s delight. It was a familiar routine: Brockhampton is beloved for their ability to alternate between chaotic rap songs and tearjerking melodies, and “Sugar” definitely provided the latter.
Though the concert equipment was simple, limited to changing light colors and smoke machine blasts at beat drops, Brockhampton’s commitment to reproducing the sometimes chaotic, frequently endearing, and always relatable charm of their songs made the concert thoroughly enjoyable. The group’s chemistry and erratic dance moves were infectious, and the members’ contrasting personalities also entertained, ranging from the more reserved bearface and Dom to the more energetic Joba, Merlyn, and Matt.
The violent mosh pits might have been too hostile an environment for first-time concertgoers. Strangely, Brockhampton encouraged several times, “Open it up in the middle!” perhaps because they knew there was no stopping the most passionate fans. Indeed, the most intense moment in the night was the “DISTRICT”-“J’OUVERT”-“BOOGIE” run near the end of the concert. As three of Brockhampton’s most abrasive and cathartic songs, this sequence helped maintain the night’s excitement. Finally, they closed the night with the slow, introspective song “NO HALO,” the first track on Ginger.
Brockhampton surely delivered the show their fans deserved, even staying to take selfies with fans who clawed their way to the front of the crowd. I also did, but sadly missed out on a selfie with Kevin Abstract or Matt Champion… Maybe I’ll be luckier next time. Meticulously lit, planned and performed, Brockhampton concerts are guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience with an exhilarating atmosphere and music.
A revised version of this article was originally published in The Stanford Daily on November 18, 2019.