“ComplexCon, make some motherfucking noise. We are here right now because no one ever really dies,” Pharrell of N.E.R.D. said about halfway through the hour-and-fifteen-minute set. “The album isn’t coming out tomorrow. We are giving it to you. You got it before anybody else did.”
Just as fans speculated, the return of N.E.R.D. — Pharrell, Chad Hugo and Shay Hayey — is finally here. The trio took the stage to debut its new album, No_One Ever Really Dies, on the first night (Nov. 4) of ComplexCon in Long Beach, Calif.
It marked the group’s first performance in three years, and they ensured that it wasn’t an ordinary show, embellishing the Long Beach Convention Center with old-fashioned cars, light poles and tree bushes along the sides of the stage. The visuals created a street-like dance party feel for concertgoers, who initially had no idea that it would be an exclusive affair.
“Good evening. Welcome to the N.E.R.D listening party,” said a Siri-like female voice. What most thought was going to be a concert turned into a massive album listening party with N.E.R.D there to witness it all from the back of the stage. They watched on a van as they jammed out to their own bangers and observed dozens of dancers parading across the stage and the venue’s first floor area.
The 11-song project features a star-studded roster, including Kendrick Lamar, André 3000, Future, Ed Sheeran and Wale, among others. The record comes shortly after the release of “Lemon,” featuring Rihanna, which was unveiled Wednesday (Nov. 1).
There was one standout moment when Pharrell completely halted the high-energy show to elaborate on a specific tune off the album. It was the fifth track, “Don’t Don’t Do It,” featuring Kendrick Lamar. The 44-year-old admitted that he wrote the song after the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, N.C.
“I just know for all those unarmed motorists that have been killed,” N.E.R.D.’s frontman began to explain to a packed arena. “I know there’s a moment … where you tell them to do something, there must be a voice inside of your head saying, ‘Don’t don’t do it.’”
As song after song played, you could see a sense of awe in the crowd’s demeanor. From the dancers’ colorful Adidas streetwear to the flashing lights, it was almost as though the event was an overall celebration of N.E.R.D and everything they’ve accomplished over the years as an entity.
As the night concluded, the Siri-like female voice returned and announced, “End of program. Good night.” It was then that the dancers took a bow and welcomed N.E.R.D to the front of the stage. Pharrell took a bow on his knees, which he held for about a minute, and showed deep reverence to the crowd — who he thanked frequently throughout the show.
After the lights went dark, he returned for an encore performance and spit Rihanna’s “Lemon” verse in her absence. The lights went out and the crowd demanded the latest single one more time. He obliged and performed “Lemon” one last time before calling it a night. It’s safe to say when life gives Pharrell lemons, he squeezes pure gold.
No_One Ever Really Dies Track List
1. “Deep Down Body Thirst”
2. “Lemon” feat. Rihanna
3. “Voilà” feat. Gucci Mane and Wale
4. “1000” feat. Future
5. “Don’t Don’t Do It” feat. Kendrick Lamar
6. “Kites” feat. Kendrick Lamar and M.I.A.
8. “Lighting Fire Magic Prayer”
9. “Rollinem 7’s” feat. André 3000
10. “Lifting You” feat. Ed Sheehan
11. “Secret Life of Tigers”