Armed with her acclaimed debut album Telefone, Chicago rapper and recent Australian live music scene debutant Noname attacked her final show in the country (her second sold out show in Melbourne) on Monday with the finesse and confidence of an artist older than her 25 years.
Noname’s 170 Russell show was kept tight, with the music wrapping up just shy of 10:30pm. The crowd, who had hung on every word (and had sung along to perhaps 90% of them, too), was ravenous for more but to Noname’s credit, she left things on an appropriate high instead of returning for endless encores or fitting covers in to satiate an audience.
The night was full of pinch-yourself moments for Noname, it was evident each time a grin would spread broadly across her face as she looked out over the enthusiastic thousand-odd strong crowd. As Telefone was shared with the crowd, Noname was able to make the intimate and candid nature of the music shine in such a big venue; the album itself saw Noname take hip hop as a malleable product, stretching, manipulating and reconfiguring its structure in producing a collection of material that has been defined by its cleverness, its emotional drive and brutal honesty.
Where “Diddy Bop” constructs a pastel dream haze, “Casket Pretty” paints a very different picture entirely. Put these two songs into a live set and, musically, they’re seamless without losing any of the emotional punch the latter has on record, when you take time to listen to Noname’s lyrics. When you hear loneliness and heartbreak on Telefone replicated live, it’d be easy to assume the tone of the show would be brought down, but this isn’t the case. Noname, while remaining an open book throughout, is equally as focused on making her live environment as welcoming and fun as possible.
The way Noname works with her band also proved to be a highlight. Between drums, keys and guitar, we had an incredibly tight, honed group of musicians driving the show. While there was little improvisation or jams during, we got a hint of what it would be like to hear them let loose at the end of the show, as they played Noname out as she exited the stage. That, for me, would be the only downside of the gig; I just wanted that little bit more. In saying that, not many artists who’ve come to Australia with such anticipation behind them from the fans would have pulled off the type of show Noname did with no proper high rotatoin triple j support; certainly, the hype surrounding Noname has been organically generated, and it was awesome to see it pay off.
Noname has some fine tuning to do, but that will come with more time spent on the road developing her live show. For now, this type of show set an brilliantly high bar and it’s going to be interesting to see how she’s levelled up when she returns to Australia (sooner, rather than later, hopefully).
The reviewer attended this show on December 11th.
Photos by Michelle Grace Hunder.