J. Cole Empire Automotive, Austin TX March 15
Published Mar 16, 2012J. Cole was led through the side of crowd without much fanfare and onto the stage to cheers from the waiting audience. He started off with a slightly skittering version of "Dollar and a Dream" but segued straight into the title track from his 2011 album Cole World. Coming across as more aggressive than on the record, Cole fed off the energy of the crowd, and he had everyone singing along by the second track. He came across as natural and down to earth during some inter-song banter, explaining that he was nervous about playing SXSW. Cole pleased the crowd, playing the tracks everyone wanted to hear from the album, as well as some older favourites such as "Lights, Please." Missy was obviously on tape for "Nobody's Perfect" and the Paula Abdul-referencing "Work Out" had that same surprisingly emotive force as on record. To see an artist of this calibre in an ex-automotive garage in front of just hundreds of people is one of the joys of SXSW.