The last time Earl Sweatshirt came to Ireland was a decidedly underwhelming experience through no fault of his own, with the huge audience in the open space of Slane Castle did him and cohort Tyler The Creator no favours. This time by booking the Academy Earl has ensured an up close and personal concert that has always worked best for Odd Future's in your face brand of rap music and sure enough when the youngster emerges on stage he gets a deafening response to 'Kill' which kicks things off in a very lively manner.
He appreciates it too: 'I fuck with y'all's energy levels tonight. Make some more noise for no reason!' he declares, and predictably the crowd go wild, feeding off the energy Earl is giving them with a no punches pulled start to the setlist in which he drops '20 Wave Caps', 'Molasses' and 'Sunday' early on, all major highlights taken off his acclaimed sophomore record Doris last year. With Doris featuring so many guest appearances and nearly half of Earl's tracks on his debut Earl utilizing Tyler's appearance, the young rapper cuts certain songs in half ('Sunday', 'Orange Juice') and allows the audience and himself to fill in the blanks for other parts which mostly works: 'Hive' is a showcase for the audience to remember their lines as Earl goes acapella in a shout and response style with the hundreds packed inside the venue for Vince Staples exceptional third verse, while the crowd also complete the chorus of 'Woah' with roaring chants of G-O-L-F-W-A-N-G throughout that make it one of the best moments of night.
Another standout is 'Chum', one of the best singles of 2013 and one that everyone in attendance is well versed in and Doris opener 'Pre' is excellent, but the song of the night goes all the way back to Earl's beginnings as a demented teenager with 'Earl' getting a massive reaction following a brilliant 'knock-knock' intro and finding the man himself at his most aggressive for the penultimate track of the set. Having taken the time to congratulate the crowd ('Are you proud of yourselves tonight?') and mess around with us a bit more (he inexplicably renames a fan 'Zip Code'), resident white OF member Lucas, whose presence has been welcome all night as DJ, leaves the decks and bounces with Earl for 'Drop', a fittingly loud closer.
You could be forgiven for wanting more than just an hour for your money, but in fairness Sweatshirt has exhausted his limited songlist within that 60 minute period and done it in some style too. As he jumps off stage to high five fans another obvious bonus that was evident thoughout the gig is Earl's transformation from shy teenager to eccentric host, and his engagement with the crowd all night has been laid back, genuine and often hilarious. The Academy is the perfect place for the young rapper to thrive and last night Earl Sweatshirt exposed his rapidly developing performance skills in an intense and all too short experience. You get the feeling it won't be long before he's back with a greater repertoire of tracks to choose from and an even bigger presence both on stage and in the rap game. From here, things are only going to get better for hip-hop's most promising star.
Review by Andrew Lambert | FOUR STARS
20 Wave Caps