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15th December 2017

Live Review: Yung Lean

The Swedish artist put on an average show for the youthful crowd at the Albert Hall for his “Stranger Tour”

Trying to describe what Yung Lean is about to anyone who has never heard of him — most of the world, approximately — proves to be practically impossible. The 21 year old Swede has a unique hip hop style that blends melodic singing akin to emo rock of the early 2000s with the deep, punchy beats of modern trap production.

His style is also attributed to his partners in crime, the $adboy$, a collective that is still very underground in the world of hip hop.

The venue, Albert Hall, is stunning. A high ceiling with stained glass windows and an organ serving as a backdrop for the stage make for the perfect scene for the event. I can only describe the crowd as the biggest gathering of Hypebeasts I have ever seen — it’s a movement, look it up and be amazed — with face masks and kanji-embroidered clothing.

Lean came on to the stage looking — I kid you not — like a stereotypical “school shooter” with his black leather trench coat to an energetic reception from the young crowd. The concert was apt for people of ages 14 and up and they instantly started a huge mosh pit during the first song, a sign of amateur gig-goers and trying too hard to fit in.

The mass of bodies came scarily close to a stampede when one side of the room thought it’d be a good idea to push the pit, crushing the other end of the room and provoking a back-and-forth game of ‘push the sweaty moshing teenagers away from you to not die’.

This brings me to a side note that I believe is important to mention — if you’re going to attend a hip hop gig with a 14+ age restriction, be prepared to deal with a crowd that will mostly be under that limit or just pushing it and worryingly, over half the show-goers will be on ketamine, MDMA, or some other substance that makes them aggressive, rude — and on a functional level — zombies.

Coming back to the main subject at hand, Yung Lean’s performance was strange. Vocally he was on par with his studio recordings. However, it felt as if there was an invisible veil between us and him, making the star seem distant despite his physical proximity to the audience.

Another factor that hindered his performance was the overabundance of smoke. Someone backstage was going absolutely mad on the smoke machine, making the Swede disappear in a dream-like mist for most of his performance.

His only attempt at interaction with the crowd, aside from mumbling a few words between some of his songs, occurred when he gingerly climbed down from the stage to crowd surf, a short-lived experience that was unsurprisingly cut short by security who dragged him out of the vile conglomerate of sweaty, ketted-out adolescents, a smart move if you ask me.

Once the lights dimmed at the end of the hour-long set, the zombies stumbled down the stairs onto the damp streets of central Manchester while I gathered my thoughts. Yung Lean has a very niche, very juvenile audience that ten years ago would have been emo-rock fans but due to the current predominance of the urban sensation that is hip hop, a strange sub-genre has manifested. Taking into account the smoke, the minimal crowd interaction, and the hostile mob of youngsters, the night was just average. Maybe, in the words of Roger Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon, ”I’m getting too old for this shit”.


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