Note – many of these concerts have now been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some have been rescheduled. Please check with individual venues for details.
Starting with the very, very good, Little Simz is unarguably the concert of the month. It’s a rare highlight in a month when live events often suffer an acute hangover from December’s glut. The north-London rapper put out one of the albums of 2021 with Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, shattering the glass ceiling that’s often levied on the art form in the process. It’s worth taking a moment for the album itself because there’s no better sign of just how far this artist has come.
First, there are a whopping five singles, each replete with its own high-budget, concept-driven music video. Then there are the songs themselves. Over 19 tracks, Little Simz delivers an inch-perfect concept album. There are times when she goes in, when she mellows and when she brims with confidence or bubbles up with wry funk. But, through it all, you can trace a taut thread of the narrative of a young woman who has found acceptance of herself and is now wielding it to the utmost advantage.
It’s not yet clear how all of that energy will translate onto the stage, but there’s an excellent case for quiet confidence. For now, the grand orchestral flourishes on tracks like Introvert are still part of the backing track, but then again, you can’t have it all, and you get the feeling that next time she comes to town, there might well be a string section in tow.
Then there’s Brockhampton, and whatever you think of the boyband rap crew hybrid, you can’t deny their popularity. Sure, popularity isn’t everything, but it does offer something of a barometer for sonic trends, and anyone writing them off for that reason probably should listen a little closer. The Texan outfit is markedly improved on Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine and deserves credit despite the clunky title. There are still plenty of overwrought moments, some bars and verses that fall on the wrong side of kooky, but all in all, it’s a tight album that fans will absolutely enjoy, and maybe the neutrals too.
On their sixth album, Brockhampton have worked out where their strengths lie. They’re a creative group that blurs the lines, and a certain amount of experimentation is natural for a large group looking to find its baseline. So file them under chaotic good and let yourself settle into what is actually an exciting concert.
Contrast their output with that of YouTube-influencer-turned-rapper KSI and you’ll have a much better view of the more questionable face of pop-rap. While there is nothing wrong with a career change, the motivations of A-list collaborators like 21 Savage, Future and Number 2 are far from artistic.
KSI has the wherewithal to get whoever he wants to feature on his second album, and at the end of the day, why not? All Over the Place, at least has the grace to be self-deprecating, and it’s hard to begrudge a self-made star indulging a lifelong passion with some of his very own heroes. After all, wouldn’t you do the same if you had the opportunity? Well, maybe not, but that’s beside the point. KSI knows his strength lies in bombast, and his fans, of which there are plenty, know it too. Anyone hoping for a glimpse of 21 Savage will be sorely disappointed; in fact, anyone hoping for anything need not bother with a ticket – this one is just for the fans.
Save your money and your time for Duckwrth instead. The good vibes only rapper has a slew of danceable hits that are guaranteed to leave a smile on your face. It’s easy-listening at its best. While that does tend to stray towards cheese a little bit too often, the debonair West-Coast rapper has no problem styling it out with indulgent lashings of tight funk, and what his music lacks in guile it more than makes up for in cheer. It’s a crowd-pleaser through and through, and if you find yourself at a loose end in this driest of Januaries, then it’s a concert that’s well worth your time.
DON’T MISS CAN’T SEE
Hype hits post-punk with a heavy hand, but the south London band is absolutely worth all the column inches waxing poetic over them. Vocalist Florence Shaw intones dry, surreal lyrics that would read like the scattered ramblings of a dusty dream journal were it not for the jangling, electric melodies that wrench them into vivid focus to transfixing effect.
Jan 26, 20:00 Zukunft am Ostkreuz, Friedrichshain
Five decades and sixty albums later, the mysterious, eye-ball helmeted icons of the San Francisco avant-garde are a force to be reckoned with. This one is a deep cut by anyone’s measure, but for those who dare, it’s a deliciously bizarre brush with one of the few bonafide innovators of the 20th century still left.
Jan 30, 20:00 Columbia Theater, Tempelhof