Azealia Banks • Brixton Academy
70 min • Brixton Academy • September 19, 2014
Little Bastard reviews
You know someone’s got balls when they open their show with confetti canons, and that’s exactly how Azealia Banks opened her show last week at Brixton Academy: with a song that’s never officially been released in any format, and massive, fuck-off confetti canons – but, what else would we expect from one of the most controversial artists of her generation. Still, opening her headline set with ‘Count Contessa’, a club track reportedly from her still unreleased Fantasea 2: The Second Wave mixtape, could have been a risky move, if it wasn’t for Azealia’s undeniable stage presence and her incredible backing dancers, which meant that from the off the audience were eating her out … sorry, eating out of the palm of her hand from the off. Or maybe I was right the first time.
The music mostly moves at a ferocious speed, all being mixed by an onstage DJ, with her dancers voguing and waacking their way through her set, feeling more like a long club PA than a rock concert – which to me is a good thing. One of the most exciting moments visually, and one of the simplest, was Azealia joining her two docking dancers in a signature voguing move during her take on the Drums of Death track ‘Fierce’, and the sight of the three of them moving in unison, after Banks had previously prowled the stage on her own, gave me my first chills of the night. Other personal highlights came from previous singles ‘Liquorice’, which drew the second best fan reception of the night (after crowd-pleaser ‘212’) and the violent dub of ‘Yung Rapunxel’, Azealia screaming the chorus vocals into a megaphone over the massive sounding industrial house backing. She made her way through her most recent single, the trippy ‘Heavy Metal And Reflective’, the Diplo produced ‘Fuck Up The Fun’ took us raving, surrounded by acid house Smiley faces for the Machinedrum produced ‘No Problems’. Speaking of her turbulent time in the music industry, which has lead to the severe delay of her now almost mythical debut album Broke With Expensive Taste, Azealia told us that her record label had told her (in a very plum by English accent)
“Azealia, we like this music. We think it’s really coooool. But – there’s nothing that we can play on the radio. Can you make something … less coooool?”
To which Azealia went back into the studio and recorded ‘Chasing Time’, an obvious single (which in fact has been released on iTunes since this gig). It has a chorus that sticks like glue, and both my friend and I were singing,
Am I chaaaaaaaasing tiiiiiiiiiime,
Coz I waaaaaasted all miiiiine on yoooouuuu –
by the last chorus, but it made me smile that this was her idea of being ‘radio friendly’, as it’s still far “cooler” than the majority of current chart fodder. After the obligatory closer of ‘212’, her breakout hit rapping over a track by Lazy J, as the crowd jumped and her screens threw up brick walls to emulate the now iconic music video, I thought we were done. She has nothing bigger than this, she’ll have saved the best till last, they’ll be no encore.
How wrong I was.
When the stage was still in darkness for a few minutes after her final song, I started to realise maybe she wasn’t quite finished … and as she bounded back onto the stage, we were treated to ‘Esta Noche’, the hit single that never was. A fan favourite, sampling Montell Jordan’s ‘Get it On Tonight’ and turning it into a club anthem, the track was due for release in 2012, but producer Munchi blocked its release, claiming Banks had used his track without permission. Despite being offered a large sum of money and a public apology, Munchi declined, and the track remained only available on the Fantasea mixtape, and its reception here makes me wish it had got a mainstream release. A track that can tear up a room like this could have torn the charts a new one, and it’s a shame that Munchi decided not to embrace Azealia’s vocal to lift the track to mainstream success. Her grand finale, complete with more confetti, was the Paul Oakenfold collaboration ‘Venus’ (again, not officially released … I’m sensing a theme here) and it’s a euphoric, commercial dance stomper – the perfect ending to a flawless gig.
Last year, Azealia claimed to have the most innovative album in hip hop, and some of us worried this album would never surface. After rescheduling this tour twice, I was almost sure this moment wouldn’t come. Thank god it did, as I left Brixton Academy dripping with sweat, having danced, jumped, tweaked and screamed for over an hour, with a renewed enthusiasm for the release of Broke With Expensive Taste – and who knows, it may be the artistic triumph that Azealia is touting it as. Judging by the new songs on display tonight, the album can’t come quickly enough for me, and by the looks of things it’ll be worth the wait. Till then, Fantasea and 1991 are getting a beating on my iTunes, and I’m on the way to giving myself a voguing injury.
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