J Cole started the second leg of his 4 Your Eyez Only Tour in Europe after being almost three months traveling across the US. Yesterday, October second, he hitted the city of Cologne, a day after I came back of my vacations in Spain.
The tour theme stayed the same as in the United States (as seen in performances like in Philadelphia’s Made In America Festival), featuring the representation of maybe a jail-court with a wall behind it with several cell bars (which hides the live band and choir behind it). This impression comes also from the lampposts with security cameras on both sides of the stage and a punching bag. J Cole’s clothing follows the idea, so he wears an orange convict suit all performance long. This thematic comes mostly in part of the Story behind the leading single of his latest studio album: Neighbors. This shows how the tour artistry fully corresponded with what the album is talking about, so pretty smart from Cole and the Dreamville team.
So the stage setup between Europe and the US is very similar and the only differences are the sizes of venues and the tracklisting. In America J Cole played stadiums and in Cologne he rapped at the Palladium, where they fit around 3000 people.
His performances was unbelievable, mostly because of his vocals, which were as clear as in the real recorded songs, and he did not need any background support with his own voice. I personally have to say that, from every rap show I have been to (Drake, A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifa, etc) J Cole his the first one to do it this way. Maybe it is what is awaited from a guy as talented as him, but for me he exceeded all my expectations.
The evening started with the performances of fellows Dreamville artists: Erv Gang and JID. After that, the stage was prepared and J Cole came in singing songs of his latest album (in the performance of Change he also got assistance from Dreamville signee Ari Lennox) and later on inserting in between older songs from 2014 Forest Hills Drive, Born Sinner and Cole World: The Sideline Story. He often also held deep monologues about the concepts behind songs of the album. After Ville Mentality he talked about the idea behind this song: a mentality of the modern american suburbs such as Fayetteville (where Cole comes from) where people are unable to think and make future plans. He sees this way of thinking as an imposition but at the same time he praises and understands the live for the moment mentality that comes from that type of living, because he personally is often stucked in thinking about the next day. This life for the present moment type of thinking is for Cole useful for example to fully enjoy the actual performance in his show. Also after Neighbors he told the story of the track and showed the footage of the police breaking in a house he had bought to use as a studio for his label artists. He came to the conclusion that it was because of the white neighbors not trusting the black man that the situation happened.
After performing for about 1 hour he left, and I went buy some merch (a cool shirt with the text: Sell Dope. Rap. Go to NBA, that caught my attention right away) thinking that the show was over, but he came back. Nobody really leaved and a lot of people were chanting his name like crazy, so he performed for another 20 minutes. What a cool guy Cole is. While rapping Crooked Smile almost at the end of the set, one guy from the public asked his girl to get married and Cole saw it, congratulated them immediately and cut the music to encouraged everyone in the venue to clap for the two. The kind of thing that happens on a Hiphop show.
Instagram post by Anthony Supreme, Dreamville photographer.
Like I said the performance was perfect in every sense, so for me this tour is as successful as the album: if we think that he is going to give in total 57, mostly sold out, shows and that the album 4 Your Eyez Only his certified platinum. If we are critical with the album: yes it is not Cole’s best work, but only because 2014 Forest Hills Drive was such a huge project. For me the album stays together as an entity, which is what mades it so good, a top to bottom listening experience. It is true that it has not a clear smash or lead single; Neighbors is probably this song but it maybe had not the commercial success expected from a single by J Cole.
For those who do not know the album tells the story of a friend of Cole that went from selling crack to falling in love and starting a family. At the end of the album we realize that he dies and that the tape is created for his daughter to listen to it after he is gone. Pretty deep and emotional, an perfectly put together on the different tracks. For me clearly Cole’s deepest work and it should be praised because of that. So there is not reason to expect a fall off, not from Jermain Cole, for me the one guy standing next to King Kendrick if we talk about being great at writing lyrics, and both of them and also canadian guy Drake, know that.
Tracklist of the performance below:
For Whom the Bells Tolls, Immortal, Deja Vu, Ville Mentality, Change, Lights Please, Nobody is Perfect, Can’t Get Enough, Forbidden Fruit, Neighbors, Foldin Clothes, Love Yourz, Wet Dreams, The Tale of Two Cities, GOMD, Power Trip, No Role Modelz, (in between he performed a song for no more than 30 seconds that I think could be new because nobody seemed to know it, but not completely sure) Work Out and Crooked Smile.
Main picture of a US performance from setlist.fm