The Kid Laroi review – Australian rapper sweats out his angst

<span>Photograph: Matthew Baker/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Matthew Baker/Getty Images

Unlike his SoundCloud rap progenitors, the Kid Laroi isn’t in the business of lowercase sadness, but brutally attention-claiming capital letters: like his song titles, he loudly styles it LAROI. Since his ascent in 2019, the 18-year-old Kamilaroi rapper has collaborated with the likes of Miley Cyrus, Machine Gun Kelly and Justin Bieber, making nine-figure streams sprinting towards the billions look like light work.

At the first of two headline shows at Brixton Academy, he sweats out his setlist like a fever, tearing through two-minute tracks titled like confessions of teen rage: Not Fair, F*ck You, Goodbye and So Done from his debut mixtape, F*ck Love. He paces across the stage with a desperate, kinetic energy, his blond mane slicked with perspiration, aptly wearing a shredded God Save the Queen T-shirt with 5,000 phones glaring back at him.

Despite the unprecedented heatwave, a sea of bodies, many of them shirtless young men with silver chains against their clammy chests, proudly baring their boxer waistbands, go feral for the assembly line of blown-out 808 drums. The crowd gorge on his tweet-and-delete lyrics, throw up their arms in despair when he warbles “I’ve got love for you, but I hate me”, guzzle on his elegies to bloodless love, and get drunk on the self-pity they otherwise wouldn’t have the words to express aloud.

Elegies to bloodless love … the Kid Laroi.
Elegies to bloodless love … the Kid Laroi. Photograph: Matthew Baker/Getty Images

Although the Kid Laroi’s vocals are sticky with Auto-Tune – presumably to lighten the burden of careening from throaty singing to breathless bars – he has a white-knuckle grip on the mic, seeing every flow through to its bittersweet end. Yet while his music is hungrily received, as a performer he is still having growing pains. Though he froths with reciprocated energy, he lacks an instinct for showmanship, quickly running out of tricks up his sleeve to galvanise his audience besides whipping up yet another mosh pit, for lack of a better idea.

But when he finds these sweet spots of togetherness, the reason for his phenomenal success becomes obvious. Go, his duet with his late mentor, Juice Wrld, is a moment of genuine tenderness amid the angst. “Long live Juice!”, the crowd chants with him, in homage to their fallen antihero, filling the void of one voice by unifying thousands. “Even if no one else in the world got you,” he says. “Just know that Laroi got you, motherfucker!”

• At O2 Brixton Academy, London, 19 July; then touring the UK until 22 July.