It's been over a year since BROCKHAMPTON's last live performance, and two years since their last album GINGER. Last week, they dropped their sixth studio album ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE. In celebration of the release, they performed a digital concert from Rick Rubin's Shangri-La studio in collaboration with digital platform Moment House.
The livestream, dubbed "Live from the Chapel," opened with (of all things) Bearface on a horse singing Carole King's "You've Got A Friend." His cover was tender and refreshingly intimate for a broadcasted performance, although the real MVP of the song was the woman feeding the horse to keep it calm.
The feed then cut to Kevin Abstract onstage performing "BUZZCUT," with the rest of the crew soon joining in. The frenetic lights and wailing instrumental were nearly visceral enough to induce pre-pandemic concert flashbacks (Flog Gnaw '19, anyone?). After playing a few ROADRUNNER songs, they treated fans to the older stuff: "BLEACH," "GUMMY," and "BOY BYE."
Joba ran away with the live band-stretch of the show, especially during "THE LIGHT" and "TEXAS WATCHIN' ME." The latter, a scrapped ARIZONA BABY track, features slow-burning, jazzy production; maybe it was Joba's singing (a solid cross between a croon and a drawl), the live band's flawless execution, or the horn riffs that ushered in Kevin's verse, but the four-minute-long performance left me wanting more.
The camaraderie between people at a live show is unmatched. It's impossible to replicate pulling someone out of a mosh pit or crying with strangers during "SAN MARCOS" through a screen, but the BROCKHAMPTON fans in attendance gave it their best shot.
In almost perfect unison (save for the few audience members with laggy wifi) the chat erupted with "Go Merlyn" every time Merlyn performed a verse and "Where's Shawn Mendes" during "COUNT ON ME" (which features vocals from Mendes and frequent collaborator Ryan Beatty). They fawned over Jabari's newfound role as a singer and could recognize a song from the first two seconds of its instrumental.
BROCKHAMPTON are no strangers to the pressures of putting on a good show. Take their Coachella 2018 set. At the time, the self-proclaimed "best boyband since One Direction" had cultivated a dedicated fanbase and recently signed to RCA - they were right on the cusp of mainstream success. It was a moment the group had waited their whole lives for.
Equipped with matching bulletproof vests and a helicopter, they made a lasting impression. Since then, BROCKHAMPTON have performed at several other major music festivals, charted on the Billboard 200, achieved a TikTok hit, and scored their first platinum record. The set didn't come without its complications, though. Bearface's mic stopped working seconds before showtime, and their set was delayed. Afterwards, Kevin Abstract tweeted, "I'm sorry I let y'all down. It felt like a nightmare."
Maybe it was the lack of a live audience, or the fact that they now have a few years under their belts, but there was no sign of that initial pressure on Friday night. They sauntered across the stage with the quiet assuredness of seasoned performers, wearing a loose dress code of baggy pants and puffer jackets. The individual members danced in planetary orbit, moving alone but feeding off of each other's gravity. That's not to say that this was a low-effort occasion. It's clear from the live band arrangements, intricate set design, and the horse (naturally), that painstaking care went into planning this one-of-a-kind performance.
It's hard to pinpoint an exact high point of the performance. BROCKHAMPTON played several bonus tracks, including ROADRUNNER cuts "PRESSURE / BOW WOW" and "SEX." Jabari made his live debut. They were joined onstage by JPEGMAFIA, SoGone SoFlexy, Baird, and ssgkobe. And Joba's mullet was even more glorious in live action.
All this aside, my favorite aspect of "Live from the Chapel" was seeing each member become engrossed in the music; it was clear from Bearface's screamo "DON'T SHOOT UP THE PARTY" outro, Merlyn's electrifying "BANKROLL" performance, and Dom's meticulous breath control on "WINDOWS." There are few experiences greater than watching artists you love get lost in their work, and that's what makes every BROCKHAMPTON show such a pleasure to lose yourself in.