By Nadeem Zayed
March 31, 2016
VANCOUVER — Only the Internet could allow a teenager from Sweden, moulded by American hip hop, to perform in Canada on a world tour. Yung Lean, the baby-faced boss of the Sad Boys clique, returned to The Vogue Theatre on Thursday night with his hypnotic brand of futuristic cloud rap, bringing us along on a cosmic, drug-fuelled adventure.
The predictably youthful, fervent fanbase were surprisingly patient as they awaited the arrival of their unassuming ringleader. Vancouver’s Tommy Genesis highlighted their innocence, remarking, “You guys are all so cute!” as they earnestly cheered throughout her brief opening set.
The starkly minimalistic stage was prepped for Lean, but not before some comically tongue-in-cheek country tunes blared from the house speakers. Apparently Yung Lean doesn’t play by the rules, demonstrated further as the show began promptly at 10 p.m. like promised, betraying the rap concert tradition of fashionable lateness.
A spooky intro of angelic vocals gave way into new banger “Hoover,” followed by an onslaught of similarly hard-hitting tracks from his latest release, Warlord. Sporting a green buzzcut, the soft spoken Swede tore through his setlist, leaving little in the way of between-song banter, with the exception of some expletive-laden fan appreciation. A string of older cuts were weaved in seamlessly, a testament to the cohesiveness of the trap-infused, synth and bass-heavy production of his discography, provided almost exclusively in-house by crewmates Yung Gud and Yung Sherman.
At times entirely indecipherable (which didn’t seem to matter since everyone knew the words), Lean’s lyrics, apart from boasts about money and women, read like a laundry list of narcotics and various states of inebriation, so the trippy, immersive ambience suitably felt like one long drug trip. The auto-tuned mic, hazy violet lights, and sinister visuals complemented the spacey soundscape, evoking the dreamlike effects of the codeine-laced beverage to which his stage name pays homage. After all, his legal middle name is Leandoer, so perhaps his affinity for the drink was predestined.
The intro of the sombre track “Diamonds” heard Lean shout-out scheduled opener Thaiboy Digital, who was stranded stateside, though the thumping drums instantly reignited the high school party. It was befitting of a 19-year-old performer and an all ages crowd whose vigour wouldn’t let them sit still for too long. The few who weren’t already standing were compelled to rise for the subsequent one-two punch of favourites “Ghosttown” and “Kyoto.”
Winding down, the self-proclaimed weirdo serenaded his clan with the anthem “Monster” before ending on the smash “Yoshi City.” Hardly out of sight before the audience loudly demanded his return, Lean immediately resurfaced and took it back to 2013 for the juvenile and infectious “Ginseng Strip 2002,” the hit that put him on the map. Sensing this would be his grand finale, the fans belted out every last word in unison.
Clocking in at a tight 55 minutes, Yung Lean’s performance embodied his “live fast, burn bright” philosophy. His trajectory has been no different, quickly amassing a young, cult-like following with whom his DIY spirit and reflective nature clearly resonates. Judging by the faces of the Sad Boys and Sad Girls after the show, they seemed awfully content.BC, British Columbia, Tommy Genesis, Vogue Theatre, Yung Lean