Review: BROCKHAMPTON at O2 Academy Brixton

The experimental hip hop collective took to London's Brixton Academy for the second night of their final headline shows.

BROCKHAMPTON made quite the entrance in the late 2010s promising to be the “best boy band since One Direction”. Though through their genre-pushing hip hop, collaborative ethos and cool irreverence, their coming seemed more akin to Odd Future’s a decade earlier, in many ways the Texas collective have followed the trajectory of the classic boy band. There’s the coordinated outfits; the multi-million major label signing, joining RCA in 2018; the mainstream television appearances; the first platinum track with “Sugar” in 2020; and, to the dismay of their devout global following, the break up. 

In March 2021 the group’s founder Kevin Abstract stated that their next two albums would be their last, though offered few details and little clarification when they might properly disband. The first, Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine, dropped in spring and was praised for its subtleties and refinement, but its promised follow-up never came. In January of this year, with the same matter-of-factness as Abstract’s earlier tweet, BROCKHAMPTON announced on social media that their “upcoming shows at the O2 Academy Brixton in London and at Coachella will be our final performances as a group. All other tour dates are canceled [sic], effective immediately”.

Given the sentimental weight behind the second and final night of their London run, those lucky enough to have secured their spot in the sweltering, 5000 capacity O2 Academy Brixton might have expected a tear. Those who made the first night might have got a mid-set cameo from Slowthai, but they were begrudgingly refused an encore and any real parting message; would their final headline show tease a little more out of Abstract, Merlyn, Bearface and co.?

Most of the evening is an absolute party. Through a plosive blast of air – the first of many tonight – the boys join Abstract on stage for the opening ‘BUZZCUT’, and though the punchy flow loses its edges in the boomy reverb and swelling excitement, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about the energy, which they immediately bring as they plough through tracks from debut Saturation. Matt Champion’s swagger is brought to life on ‘GOLD’, whilst ‘FACE’ creates a break in pace for the room to collect itself and take in the night’s importance. 

There’s no apparent awkwardness between the ten or so members on stage, who in fact seem to be revelling in ad libs and switching sides in the G-funk anthem ‘GUMMY’ or slow jam ‘BLEACH’, and it’s especially endearing when at a couple of points, such as midway through ‘SISTER’, the group stop to point security in the way of fainting crowd members. There are a few quick and early nods ackowledging it’s a special occasion, but it feels like the group would rather keep playing than dwell on it. After a short break offstage they return to rattle through their later material, and a mulleted Joba comes to the fore as he intricately spits his part on ‘1999 WILDFIRE’, whilst the energy behind ‘DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY’ feels as though it could have been the start of the show. 

The party is great. But given that it is the final time we’ll likely see them on stage together again, it begins to feel a little off that the sentimentality is hidden. In this light, there’s a sense of relief when BROCKHAMPTON sit down at the back, still in sight, to let Bearface step into the spotlight to croon closing ballad ‘SUMMER’. They watch on as if they’re finally soaking in the occasion themselves, and the effect is quite emotional – not only for the crowd. Bearface waits a little longer and takes in the applause as the fog drags heavily on the stage floor. 

“Thank you guys so much for your support”, comes a voice as people begin to leave as the lights go up. BROCKHAMPTON aren’t on stage, but when the piercing cheers wane it’s clear their favourite boy band are saying goodbyes. They’re awkward and unprepared, but sincere and well-received. “You changed my life. Crazy”. 

And that’s that. Or it is, until violins that sound funnily enough like the sirens from ‘BOOGIE’ lead into one more explosive arrival on stage for the song that epitomised ‘turning up’, as BROCKHAMPTON always did.