Live Review: Illy + M-Phazes + Tuka + Allday + Elemont - The Corner Hotel (20.09.13)

A combination of AFL finals madness and Illy’s sold out gig at The Corner Hotel set the scene of this hectic Friday night in Richmond. Swan Street was packed with punters, and the internals of the Corner Hotel was no different.

It had been a long twelve months since Melbourne MC Illy had graced the stage on his home turf, and boy was it busy - it had obviously been far too long between drinks for Illy’s herds of diehard devotees, and the Corner was pumping. Adding another splash of fuel to the already scorching fire ignited by support acts Elemont, Allday and Tuka was Illy’s fellow partner in crime and long time collaborator M-Phazes, which was set to be his final gig alongside Illy in Melbourne.

But before I commence with proceedings, let’s get one thing out of the way. There’s nothing better than an artist who pays tribute to their fans to the sheer degree that Illy does. He knows damn well that his fans helped him to get to where he is, and he’s not shy about letting them know. He’s appreciative, he’s humble, and he genuinely treats his fans really well. Other performers should seriously take note – regardless of your craft, genre, whatever – it’s really fucking important to treat your fans properly.

Alright, now that’s out of the way...

Right from the start of his set, Illy’s onstage energy was set to maximum; a momentum he kept cranking throughout the entire show. Mixing his set up by intertwining older, well-known tracks from his back catalogue in with new tracks from his forthcoming release Cinematic kept the audience on their toes, and sustained the super-intense energy that remained constant throughout the entire set.

His 2012 track ‘Where Ya Been’ was thrown down early in the piece, before launching into his classic Like A Version rendition of Pixies’ timeless number, ‘Where is My Mind?’, highlighting an unanticipated eclecticism in his hip hop repertoire. The title track of his 2010 album The Chase sent punters into overdrive, as did the tremendous live take of ‘Cigarettes’, which, quite suitably, triggered multiple audience members to spark up the joints they’d obviously stashed away for the ‘perfect’ moment in the night. The remainder of his set journeyed through much-loved tracks like ‘Put ‘Em In The Air’ and ‘It Can Wait’ while also showcasing a superb selection of new tracks from Cinematic, including ‘No Tomorrow’, and the memorable tribute to Melbourne, aptly titled ‘One For The City’.

But the indisputable highlight of the night was when he and M-Phazes kicked into one of their acclaimed Friday Flips series, delivering an awesome live remix of Swedish DJ Avicii’s hit track ‘Levels’. It was at this point when the duo’s impeccable collaborative skills and Illy’s seamless freestyling talents were truly on display, and verified why he’s earned himself the much deserved credentials as an outstanding wordsmith. The guy is an exceptional lyricist – and coupled with M-Phazes wicked production skills, the two manage to recreate the seemingly mundane into pure magic. The line, “don't need to make dance music for you to dance to it, I can make crowd bounce with a hand movement”, couldn’t have been any more true – the audience was bouncing along to each and every one of his songs. And if they weren’t bouncing, they were climbing on shoulders, or reaching their hands out for him to latch onto, or harmonising along with each chorus. There’s no doubt about it. His fans adore him. Illy closed his set with the Triple J favourite, ‘Heard It All’, before returning to the stage and delivering an impressive ONETWO collaboration with Elemont, Allday and Taka. But he couldn’t resist the mighty chants of his fans, and he took to the stage once more for a completely unplanned “bullshit, off the wall” second encore, laying down his 2009 single, “Pictures” – once M-Phazes had found his way back to the stage after crowdsurfing deep into the pit, of course.