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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Eagle
Photo by Yassine El Mansouri

Kendrick Lamar, National Symphony Orchestra deliver an intimate performance at Kennedy Center

On Oct. 20, Kendrick Lamar and the National Symphony Orchestra performed a one-night-only show at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage to an audience of nearly 2,500 people.

The Mellow Tones, a jazz doo-wop group composed of nine students from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, opened the show and performed songs by the likes of Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. To close out the performance, the youthful and vibrant Mellow Tones performed a rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” to set the funky tone for the evening and introduced themes like oppression, violence and activism that Lamar later rapped about.

Following the opening set, Steven Reineke, the National Symphony Orchestra principal pops conductor, took his place at the conductor’s podium. Reineke introduced the orchestra which then played an overture, demonstrating its power, volume and skill. Then, Lamar quietly came on stage, dressed in all black with a silver cross hanging from his neck and dragging a microphone stand behind him.

The entire stage pulsed with energy and the fidgety Lamar zig-zagged across the stage as he began the night with a powerful rendition of “For Free?" Lamar’s funk band danced fervently to the rhythm, and Reineke commanded a stage presence of his own with his goofy energy.

Lamar, a Compton-born rapper, weaved together “Wesley’s Theory,” “Alright” and “Institutionalized” from “To Pimp a Butterfly” with songs like “Swimming Pools” and “Backseat Freestyle” from his sophomore album “good kid, m.A.A.d city.” He seamlessly blended these tracks together with the help of the orchestra, and the lush strings added power and depth to the songs. Despite the serious themes of his music, Lamar performed every track with positive energy and a huge grin on his face.

At the beginning of Lamar’s performance, the audience sat rigidly in their seats and quietly listening to the music in a timid and apprehensive manner. But as the night went on, more and more audience members stood up to groove along to the funky beats. By the time Lamar performed the confident, self-love anthem “i,” nearly everyone in the crowd was on their feet, dancing and singing along to the music.

When Lamar left the stage, the crowd cheered and begged him to return. He answered their calls and graced the stage once more. Lamar then asked the audience to participate in a moment of silence, and as the audience simmered down, Lamar bowed his head.

“Since day one, it’s always been about doing music that people relate to and people can live their day-to-day lives to,” Lamar said.

With that, he turned back to the orchestra and gave a final, forceful performance of “Alright” before the night ended for good.

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