An accomplished performance from a phenomenal artist
J. Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only tour touched down in London town early this week, with the Dreamville front man selling out two nights at the O2 Arena. Cole was supported by his labelmates Ari Lennox, EARTHGANG (whose recent Rags – EP is worth a listen and whose Robots – EP drops on Friday), and J.I.D. (who released his criminally underrated debut album, The Never Story, earlier this year). After the performances of tracks like Ari’s ‘Backseat’, Spillage Village’s ‘Can’t Call It’, and J.I.D.’s ‘Never’ from the supporting acts had sufficiently gassed the crowd, the time had come for the man himself to take the stage.
The curtain dropped in dramatic fashion to reveal a striking backdrop of prison bars as J. Cole, donning an orange prison jumpsuit, sauntered on stage. Cole surveyed the crowd before delivering passionate performances of ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ and ‘Immortal’. Cole had the crowd hanging on his every word and you could almost hear the pain and emotion behind his voice in every bar, especially on deep album cuts like ‘Ville Mentality’. After Ari Lennox joined him on stage to provide the vocals for ‘Change’, Cole revisited some of his older material and had the whole arena rocking for fan favourites like ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, ‘Can’t Get Enough’, and ‘Power Trip’.
As suggested by the stage setup and J. Cole’s attire, the show reflected the album’s underlying themes of police brutality and America’s criminal justice system. During his performance of ‘Neighbors’, Cole discussed these issues at length, addressing the broader topic of race relations in America whilst the big screen showed CCTV footage of a SWAT team raiding his North Carolina studio following complaints from his white neighbours.
This was a more poignant moment but Cole raised the energy once again, ending his set with ‘A Tale of 2 Citiez’, ‘G.O.M.D.’, and ‘No Role Modelz’ amongst other hits from 2014 Forest Hills Drive. For an artist that is seemingly becoming increasingly reclusive, this show served as a reminder of why J. Cole has such a cult following. His music connects with the masses, and everyone in attendance was captivated from start to finish by his presence. Also, did you know he went platinum with no features?