Concert Reviews

Earl Sweatshirt at Phoenix Concert Theatre

Remember when the world was screaming “Free Earl”? There was a time- not too long ago even- where we didn’t even have Earl Sweatshirt around. He was sent away by his mother to a military school. He came back an even wiser gentleman, whose hip hop got singed and forever burnt by adulthood. His raps and beats have been darker ever since, and while this Sweatshirt is more in style, the poor guy sounds depressed. His new album’s title even implies a high level of introversion. Well, we have had Earl back for a while, and it has been good. For some of us, Sweatshirt’s show earlier this year was to be our first time seeing him. He had to cancel due to illness, but he was quick to postpone his show.

Finally, August had come around. We were melting together in a scorching Phoenix waiting for 10 pm to hit. When it did, no Sweatshirt was there. About twenty minutes later, nothing yet had happened. At this time, we heard all sorts of chants: “We want Earl”, “Sweatshirt. Sweatshirt”, and, of course, the common hashtag “Free Earl”. Finally, from out of nowhere, he walks out without a grand introduction or anything. It is the only time I wanted to see anything sweatshirt related in such a sauna of an evening. Yes, Earl was finally here, and his eyes were wide with excitement. It was time to put all of that aside for some tortured lyricism and severity, though.

Apparently, it wasn’t time for that at all. Earl blasted through these very same songs with energy, yells and smiles. Sure, he pushed out his demons and felt pained doing so, but it was an optimistic catharsis that resulted in Earl having a ball. He started the night off with some Doris cuts before politely asking if he could go off on some “I don’t like shit” material. Absolutely he could; He proceeded to perform the organ led Huey which quickly desolved into the spaghetti western twangy Mantra. He hopped into Grief, which felt less like an ongoing battle (as it does on album) and more like a win live.

Earl Sweatshirt joked about audience members getting freebies when his DJs handed out water to the crowd. The only clear freebie Sweatshirt has ever had was Tyler, the Creator’s opportunity that started his career. Everything else has been a series of deterministic pushes. You can tell that he is a perfectionist that is glad to finally be where he wants to be: on that stage. You can’t go wrong at a show of his. The environment is alive and he is a winner sharing his trophies with us. If you want to see Earl Sweatshirt at his most free, go see a show of his and discover that one of hip hop’s rising stars is as bright as his wit and talents are.

Thanks to INK Entertainment for media access.

About author

Former Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.