Tyler, The Creator recently unleashed his third LP, Cherry Bomb, in the recently-common ‘surprise release’ way that Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt, Beyoncé and Kanye West (soon, so he says) have utilised. It might not have had the same length of time as predecessors Goblin and WOLF in his fans’ ears, but that’s not stopped the baying masses arriving in droves hours before he’s due on the stage at Bristol’s O2 Academy tonight (15th May).
Immediately, Tyler proves himself a taut sonic savant with genuine wit and boundless energy; he’s a rare kind of artist that can capture the attention of the room with his mere presence.
Early in set he spits out high-octane hits like “Bitch Suck Dick”, “Deathcamp” and “Tron Cat”, all as violent and borderline tasteless as they are viciously tongue-in-cheek, whirring the crowd into one gelatinous clump of pogoing youth. “Jamba” is a bouncy, crunchy psych hip-hop belter, “Domo23” a swaggering anthem that provides proof of Tyler’s talent on the mic (and his fans’ mimicking skills), and “IFHY” is a spiteful tempo-drop; performed mostly beneath a sweaty towel, it still seems to touch a nerve for Tyler (it’s about his rocky relationship with an absent father). It’s a rare moment of tenderness.
New material blurs into old and you’d be hard pressed to find the seams; it’s all performed with immense confidence, and it’s sung right back to him with appropriate gusto.
Onstage Tyler’s joined by Taco, his DJ, and Jasper Dolphin, his hypeman/backup. The former spins all the necessary beats, while the latter is the gastrointestinal architect of a thousand retching gags. In the midst of a particularly vigorous verse, he splurts his guts across the stage. It’s gross. To make it grosser, Tyler jokingly tells the audience that he’d pay £20 to whoever would come up onstage and eat a chunk; lo and behold, Gareth, from Wales, almost scuppered by the security’s barrier policy, happily obliges and slurps up a sizeable cut (correctly identified as barbecue chicken). It takes a lot to shock Tyler, but he’s left reeling, choking on his own disgust and laughter. Fortunately for Gareth, he gets his money, and Tyler even brings him back to hand him more dosh after he’s sent a crew member to fetch his wallet. Only Gareth’s stomach knows if it was worth it.
What’s abundantly clear is the effect that the cult of Tyler has on damn near everyone in attendance. ‘Worship’ seems too tame a term. How many people would willingly chow down on throwup for an artist? Comparing One Direction and Tyler, The Creator is unthinkable in most circumstances, but when you look at the fanbase in attendance tonight – predominantly white teenagers clad in expensive merch – and just how they react, it becomes startlingly apt. The crowd’s reactions are feverish, slavish impulses to every deft fleck of Tyler’s vocal chords – god forbid he speaks to the crowd – with throaty yowls of affection and adoration flooding every second of silence – his response? “You don’t love me. I’m a piece of shit, seriously.”
Arms are thrown forward, crushes against the barrier frequent, fists beg to be bumped, fives beg to be highed… Instagram illuminates the venue better than any stage lights; everyone in the pit is clamouring for a chance to scavenge proof that they’ve seen Tyler in the flesh.
Deified by a devout fanbase, the OFWGKTA head honcho is practically a God in these circles. Tyler, The Almighty; Tyler, The Blessed; Tyler, The Creator indeed.
Tyler, The Creator's latest record, Cherry Bomb, is out now.