Yung Lean @ Albert Hall, Manchester, 13 Dec
Tonight, Yung Lean's captivating idiosyncrasies shine through to reveal an artist who has much more to offer than Nintendo memes and a penchant for Arizona Iced Tea
Bathed in smoke, Yung Lean takes to the stage in what looks like a black dressing gown. With the nonchalant demeanour of a man exiting a sauna, Lean launches into Muddy Sea – the opening track of his latest album Stranger – seemingly unfazed by the baying crowd in front of him.
Ever since he appeared in 2013 with viral hit Ginseng Strip 2002, Lean’s languorous vocal delivery has been subject to its fair share of derision. But here, under the towering church organ pipes of Manchester’s Albert Hall, the sold-out crowd pump out every word with a cultish fervour that would be difficult for even his most ardent critics to deny. In fact, it’s in this live setting that Lean’s ear for memorable hooks becomes evident. The trap-influenced Afghanistan erupts with the refrain ‘I keep that Kush up on me’ while Kyoto – arguably his biggest hit to date – has the whole crowd chanting ’S-A-D B-O-Y-S / See me in the club with it tatted on my chest.’
Backed by two hooded 'sad boys' manning laptops and Launchpads, Lean raps with heavy auto-tune over booming 808s and lush, swirling melodies that have become more refined and considered on his latest release, influenced perhaps by previous collaborations with artists like Travis Scott and Frank Ocean. On Red Bottom Sky – with its melancholic production and undeniable hook – the beat drops out and Lean sings ‘Feel’s like I’m walking on water, not wine’ in a moment that could have come straight off Blonde.
Seeming genuinely humbled by his reception tonight, the unassuming Swede doesn’t look like the face of a burgeoning underground rap movement. Just seventeen when he put out Ginseng Strip 2002, Lean developed his style from a collage of music and pop culture icons and whipped up a viral storm in the process. Tonight, these captivating idiosyncrasies shine through and reveal an artist who has much more to offer than Nintendo memes and a penchant for Arizona Iced Tea.