AU ABROAD

Live Review: Azealia Banks + Nina Las Vegas - Palace Theatre, Melbourne (07.03.13)

“Who’s already drunk? Who’s already high? Who’s fucccccck-ing tonight!!!???”. Azealia Banks, with her locks reaching all the way to her slender legs and her pretty face supported by a petite frame, she is, in a word, shocking. As she shakes her way around the world from Harlem all the way to Melbourne, she blows away fans and haters alike with her rude ‘tude, and boy, she does not hide it. But damn. She can pull it off. Making her way around Australia playing Future Music Festival, the fiery 21-year-old rapper from New York City hit up the Palace Theatre on Thursday night.

When I arrived at 9pm, Nina Las Vegas was just taking over the decks and appropriately cranking Dead Prez’s "It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop" to get the game rolling. The dance floor was already packed, as people got down to beat after hip hop beat. The woman behind Triple J’s ‘House Party’ show on a Saturday night, she did an awesome job at revving up the crowd. Nina las Vegas was constantly grooving, and really made mixing look like the art that it is, throwing some Icona Pop, Van She, Major Lazer and Diplo into it.

After an odd little intermission from Azealia’s long-time DJ support, DJ Cosmo, there was a little fluttering impatience as people waited for the woman herself to arrive. Finally, wearing a skin-tight, futuristic nude bodysuit, criss-crossed with white, blue and pink stripes, Azealia strutted onto the stage with an ocean-inspired backdrop featuring two-headed mermaids and fantasy creatures. Kicking it off with a rendition of "Out of Space" and flanked with two back-up dancers, Azealia wasted no time letting rip her most crass lyrics with that sharp tongue of hers. Despite all the criticism thrown her way for her Twitter-tiffs and unruly public persona, Azealia was pretty well behaved. She kindly introduced her awesome dancers, who would on occasion take the spotlight themselves when Azealia would step off the stage for a moment to breathe – understandable given the rapidity of her rapping.

Given she has only released a handful of EPs and mixed tapes – not even a full album yet – it was a bit hefty to put a $70 price tag on a ticket to her show. But, most of the punters seemed pretty satisfied, if their response was anything to go by. It was good to see most of the girls were smart enough to settle for their sneakers rather than stilettos as they got down on the d-floor – which worked surprisingly well at the Palace, which is of course a huge venue, not originally designed to cater for a hip-hop crowd.

After reeling off songs such as "Liquorice" (“The Azealia Banks soundtrack”, she says) and "1991" (an ode to her year of birth, reminding the crowd just how young she is and declaring this one of her 'favourite songs ever written'), she performed the "Harlem Shake". 'I got in so much fucking trouble for putting this song out, that I just gotta fucking play it anyway' she said before the all-too familiar electronic bass kicked in from Baauer’s "Harlem Shake", the crowd simultaneously performing the appropriate dance moves made famous by YouTube. And then the words Azealia rapped over the top, made infamous thanks to social media, Baauer’s reaction and Azealia’s “I don’t give a flying fuck” attitude.

After only about a half hour set, it was announced that the show would soon be over. And at this, the song that made her famous: "212". Never would I dream that I would be one of hundreds of people passionately yelling together, “Im-a ruin you cunt”. The energy for this last track was naturally amazing – every single person getting up to have a dance and scream the words which were, helpfully, flashing up on the big screen to aid those who hadn’t quite nailed down the lyrics already. As the song finished up, Azealia whirled into a cover of The Prodigy’s "Firestarter", an incredible end to what had been more of a dance party than a gig, but super fun nonetheless. As blazes of fire sparked up on the backing screens, everyone was sorry to see the show end there, at it’s peak! The crowd diligently cheered to provoke what would have been an assumed encore, but even that failed to draw this outrageous young woman back to the stage. Overall, the feel of the show was pretty great, and I’m sure as Azealia garners more material her performances will only become more and more fierce and, hopefully, with slightly more substance.