Azealia Banks - Concorde 2, Brighton 10/10/12
Azealia Banks is a peculiar case of what happens when fame hits after one song. It would be unfair to say that the only reason everyone in the room was there to hear her sing about a particularly challenging answer to her favourite segment of Countdown, but she certainly wouldn't be there without it. That's not to say that her fame is begrudged - the concept of a gig is not just about what the artist sings or plays, it's how they pay it, it's how they lift it off the page and into a real, 3D situation. There's a subtle artistry to playing a gig, especially with so few crowd-pleasers, and unfortunately Azealia was way off the mark tonight.
As a total contrast, Zebra Katz nailed live performance on the head. Coming on stage in a gimp mask with Njena Reddd Foxxx in tow in a strange pseudo-bondage black latex get up on they sought to entertain. Followers of Katz will recognise that gimp mask from the video to 'W8WTF', which is precisely what they opened with. Despite all their promise for intimidation, their enjoyment of the spectacle overcame their menace and they utilised the stage and got the crowd going better than just about any support act I've seen. Even when they closed on 'Ima Read', one of the scariest tracks and videos released this year, they were far too excitable to pull it off with any threat. It's not a criticism (though I'd like to see them in their element giving these tracks their all) and they certainly served to hype for Miss Banks.
After over an hour of waiting, including an impressive DJ Cosmo set and numerous calls for Azealia to take the stage (including several from on the stage), our headline act appeared, with ass length green hair and a flashing blue bra. While she looked the part, it was clear from the start she wasn't interested in being there. She sung a few tracks before introducing cosmo and allowing him to do a track by himself, which seemed unnecessary considering we listened to him for an hour beforehand, before returning to the stage to complain about the sound giving her feedback.
For the rest of her set (well, the rest that we stayed for - important 9am lecture the next day, #yolo) she went through a tired routine of "This is xxx track off of xxx release" which unsurprisingly fell flat on a crowd that had been patient and pumped through DJ Cosmo's set. There were highlights - '1991' got the place moving and 'L8R' elicited a big response from the otherwise docile crowd - but all in all she did not live up to her burgeoning reputation.
Azealia Banks can be that charismatic, interacting performer, as she was on the NME tour, but tonight her heart wasn't in it. She's only 20 years old and perhaps a headline tour in another country is too much for her. Or she could have gotten a hype man of sorts if she didn't want the limelight. No matter how it's looked at though her performance tonight was the minimal to fill a commitment and not the cheeky siren she comes across as in her songs.
Ken Grand-Pierre spent some time with Azealia Banks in New York. [read more]
Editors James and Tim went to Brixton Academy to see what treats NME had in store for their closing night of their annual awards tour. [read more]