Danny Brown’s Bruiser Thanksgiving IV
Club Fantasy, Detroit, Mich.
November 22, 2017
Review by: PSA Director Nick Marinelli
An anxiousness permeates the air from the queue outside to the hazy expanse inside. It’s Danny Brown’s last show for several months, and with him coming home to Detroit, it is made even more important.
The individuality of opening acts Jlin and Container affirm Brown’s commitment to the support of independent artists. Venus X and John FM continue to set the tone of the night with a mix of cathartic R&B and throbbing techno beats. Whereas Detroit Lines fuels the crowd with even harder EDM, designed to pulsate throughout our bodies.
It becomes clear by the time Danny Brown comes on stage, this event should be the blueprint for how one organizes a homecoming show.
With “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath playing as he walks out, Brown arrives onstage to a rapturous rock star-like welcome. Fittingly, he opens with, “Die Like A Rockstar.” The thumping drumbeat gives way to a menacing synth and Brown lets us know we’re off by way of his distinctive high-pitched frantic delivery.
His appearance is striking. Standing at well over six feet tall and dressed in tight jeans and a green coat, Brown challenges the stereotypical image of what a rapper should look like according to fashion standards. Considering Brown is known to indulge in post-punk and new wave music — evidenced by the title of his latest album, “Atrocity Exhibition,” an overt reference to the influential post-punk group, Joy Division — it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that these inspirations have influenced how he presents himself.
Brown treats the crowd to several cuts off “XXX,” with “Monopoly” hitting especially hard five songs in. Brown then shifts into his 2013 offering “Old,” and “Dip” whips the crowd into a frenzy with the famous line, “Don’t let me into my zone”.
Brown’s last three albums, “XXX,” “Old” and Atrocity Exhibition” have often been referenced as a trilogy by the media, and the rapper alludes to this with tonight’s setlist, which functions as somewhat of a three-act performance, moving from album to album playing five or six tracks off of each.
Before we reach “Atrocity Exhibition,” Brown treats us to perhaps his most endearing cut, “Grown Up.”
“Grown Up” possesses the charm of invoking memories of adolescent days, and instantly wins over the ecstatic crowd with its smooth groove. There are still elements of Brown’s darkness present in the song, but the glimmering self-confidence of the line, “Whoever thought I’d be greatest growing up,” reminds us of his irresistible charisma.
(Author’s note: While doing some research following the show, I was pleasantly surprised to find out the song samples Gorillaz’s “Tomorrow Comes Today.” Additional author’s note: “Tomorrow Comes Today” is a lovely, intense reflective tune.)
“Ain’t It Funny” follows “Grown Up” with propulsive electronic beats and the “Atrocity Exhibition” portion of the show is on.
Brown’s breathtaking aggressive, frantic vocal entrance into the tune is one of his best yet, and he makes Club Fantasy literally bounce. The vibe then takes a pleasingly dark turn with “Really Doe.” It doesn’t matter that Kendrick Lamar isn’t here to deliver the chorus. Brown and the crowd combine to make it just as satisfying before transitioning into “When It Rain.”
Bringing the show to a close, Brown uses “Pneumonia” to level a final assault of unrelenting exposure to his personality. The experimentation of the chaotic track is powerfully realized in the live setting. The song clings and clangs, then wallops the crowd with speedy electronic drums. Driving many members of the crowd, including yours truly, into hysterics.
The venue at this point has been transformed into an “upside-down” atmosphere of thickening haze. Paralleling Brown’s daring, unwillingly to hold back, idiosyncratic musical vision. He pours his emotions into his music, and in turn, it publicly defines who he is. It’s poignant. It’s real.