Danny Brown has performed in Ireland more times in the past three years than almost any other international rapper. His live show has come leaps and bounds since his last headline outing in the same venue almost three years ago, appearing more comfortable and confident than ever before. You’d think perhaps that might be because he has just released what many are calling a career defining album with Atrocity Exhibition. Travelling under a tour of the same name might have given the impression that this project would be the main focus of the show. For better or for worse, this is not this case at all.
His Bruiser Brigade cohort, Zeelooperz, kicks things off at just a lukewarm level. His style and stage presence is almost too much like Brown’s to be appreciated fully while waiting on the man himself. Obviously they came up together in the same group so they share mannerisms and influences, but it feels like a false start for a night that rarely stops otherwise.
With a setlist of tracks that chronologically reflect Brown’s career so far, the crowd are clearly ready to move from get go. Some still hold his debut, XXX, in higher regard than anything else he’s released and it’s clear this album is greatly appreciated with huge roars of approval for every beat dropped. The fast-paced, bass-thumping beats keep everyone on their toes, causing the Academy floor to sway back and forth like a crowd of zombies trying to walk through a wall.
His voice has never sounded clearer on the mic as he spits with the same venom and conviction you hear on record. Tracks like ‘Dope Song’ and ‘Break It’ generate an atmosphere more akin to a rave than a hip hop gig. Danny Brown’s not so secret weapon has always been his abstract production choices and it pays off tenfold in the Academy. His set is incomparable because he is a vastly different artist to most of his peers. It allows for the show to go in many different directions, unlike other hip hop gigs which can sometimes grow repetitive around the half way mark.
While there are no obvious missteps in the set, as it maintains a relentless pace for a full hour, the absence of new material is definitely felt. There is potential for something greater that needs to be elaborated upon, and while the performance itself is in no way subpar, with 17 new tracks to choose from (and only a handful played at the end) there is a hole in the show that needed to be filled. Brown knows how to deliver an enthralling show, but revisiting this setlist is a vital task he’ll need to undertake before he can be praised as one of the better performers in recent years.