I first saw J. Cole perform at a tiny, intimate show in Seattle four years ago. This still stands as one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to.
J. Cole is an incredibly personable artist, who I think performs best – and whose music is best tailored to – small audiences where he can peer into every member’s eyes and deep deep deep into their souls. Well, I guess fame is a double-edged sword, right?
You wish the best for your darling artists at the peril of getting lost in the masses of new fans.
I attended the San Francisco show of the “What Dreams May Come” tour, on a Monday night (School night? What’s that?). To my shock, hordes of fans lined up around the block to see J. Cole and Wale (1) hours before doors opened.
My friends and I were eager to see our summer anthems from Born Sinner, J. Cole’s second studio album, brought to life. It was my first time going to a concert on a Monday night, and turns out, the crowds are awkward. Most people were in middle or high school, and the overall vibe was a bit eerie. The skull spinning inside a giant apple on the big screen during his performance of “Forbidden Fruit” supplemented this, not to mention a video of a mock car accident with J. Cole dying played on the same screen. Pretty morbid, but in line with the theme of Born Sinner, I suppose.
He performed the majority of the songs from new album, some noteworthy performances being “Villuminati,” and “Power Trip.” About halfway through the concert, he rapped “Mo Money,” a short, smooth interlude I love, which everyone in the crowd rapped along with him. Concerts are magical places where you can rally with strangers to music you all obsess over, and despite the random crowd, this magic came into effect as the show went on.
The best performance, by far, was “She Knows.” The beat of the song begins with a few measures of clapping and dark, rhythmic, slams on the keyboard that remind me of the Pink Panther theme song. Everyone in the crowd sensed which song J. Cole would share next, and screams of anticipation and recognition cascaded towards the stage, row by row, before he began the first verse. The moment J. Cole said “She knows, she knows,” hundreds of people had their hands in the air, clapping to the beat. The song welcomes the crowd to sing along, with its chorus line of “Oh I- I- I,” and we all joined the performance, singing, rapping, and jumping with the mob.
Although J. Cole’s fame is growing and he’s forgetting about little old me, I appreciate how he always tries to connect with the crowd. In between songs, he took a second to shout out random fans like “the guy in the Cole World shirt” or “the girl with the ‘I love you’ sign,” ensuring that all groupie efforts were fruitful.
Photos courtesy of jcolemusic.com.
(1) (Wale couldn’t make it. Maybe dealing with a break up?)