Before J. Cole came out, the big screens flanking the Liberty Stage showed a montage of cops brutalizing black men and women. It was set to the doleful strains of Cole’s “Be Free,” a track he rush-released as a response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
Was the party atmosphere at Made in America about to get a polemical rebuke? No, the North Carolina rapper’s performance was notably free of racial commentary. Instead he gave an energetic reading of his tracks, strutting, stumbling, and jumping around the stage like a crazed scarecrow to act out the sentiments of his lyrics.
After a guest appearance by rapper Bas on on “Lit,” Cole built to a volcanic climax of “Can’t Get Enough,” “Crooked Smile,” and “Power Trip.” It left the performer drained. The crowd clearly wanted more.
-- David Hiltbrand