J. COLE 3Arena, Dublin

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The 3Arena crowd’s pas­sion for North Carolina star J Cole is quite stag­ger­ing. As the rap­per emerges onto the stage – which has a prison yard back­drop – a chunk of the au­di­ence surge to the front, putting real pres­sure on the peo­ple aal­ready at the bar­ri­ers. Cole him­self has to avert any cri­sis by im­plor­ing ev­ery­one to take a step back, warn­ing that oth­er­wise the show will be can­celled.

Or­der thank­fully re­stored, the singer kicks into a se­ries of tracks from his lat­est al­bum, 4 Your Eyez

Only. ‘Ville Men­tal­ity’ and ‘Déjà vu’ are in­cred­i­bly well ex­e­cuted, though Cole does seem to over­stretch his voice dur­ing the en­er­getic cho­rus of ‘Im­mor­tal’. Just be­fore an in­cred­i­bly smooth duet with Ari Len­nox on ‘Change’, the singer takes the time to pay

re­spects to his great-grand­mother – who, it turns out, sailed on a boat from Ire­land to Amer­ica 90 years ago.

The se­cond act fea­tures a mix of tracks from through­out his ca­reer, with high­lights in­clud­ing ‘No­body’s Per­fect’ and love song ‘Foldin Clothes’. Mid­way through more re­cent tune ‘Neigh­bours’, he asks the au­di­ence if they know the mean­ing be­hind the song. This is the cue for some real life footage of a SWAT team break­ing down the doors of Cole’s North Carolina home. “The neigh­bours think I’m

sell­ing coke,” he raps, in a line that cap­tures the sad state of Amer­i­can race re­la­tions.

The third act rounds things off nicely with songs from 2014’s

For­est Hills Drive, un­doubt­edly Cole’s finest record. ‘Love Yourz’ and ‘Wet Dreams’ show the rap­per at his rawest and most earnest, while ‘G.O.M.D’ at­tacks the com­pla­cency of mod­ern rap (no­tably, he doesn’t spare him­self in the cri­tique).

The evening con­cludes with the take-no-pris­on­ers ‘No Role Modelz’; the sam­ple of Ge­orge Bush bungling the ‘Fool Me Once’ proverb fol­lowed by a glo­ri­ously catchy re­fain. A win­ning end to a bril­liant night.

PETER McGO­RAN

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