Live Review: Azealia Banks – London Mermaid Ball
I was introduced to Azealia Banks earlier this year when ‘212’ dropped on a night out and after writing some lyrics in permanent marker on my arm (guess which ones…) I managed to track it down online. Since then Miss Banks has gone from strength to strength, being voted top of the ‘Cool List of 2011’ by NME and releasing both her EP ‘1991’ and mixtape ‘Fantasea’ this year…
At the start of October, Banks embarked upon her sell-out Fantasea tour in the UK to rave reviews, and after gigs all over Britain she finally arrived in London City. Kicking off with a gig at the O2 Academy in Shepherd’s Bush, she relocated to a much more exotic venue – The Sea Life Centre London Aquarium – on Saturday October 13 where she treated London to a night of under the sea adventures at her Mermaid Ball.
The 21-year-old MC and singer from the Big Apple has already hosted Mermaid Balls across the pond in NYC and Hollywood and if they were anything to go by, London could expect everything - from elaborate Poseidon-inspired outfits to starfish-shaped nipple covers. The line-up boasted well-known artists such as Shystie, Etta Bond, Lady Leshurr, Zebra Katz and, of course, a set from Miss Banks herself.
We were ushered in to the venue promptly at 8pm with complementary popcorn, candy floss and wine. As the crowd gathered, I took at seat by one of the tanks and sipped my wine as I watched the sharks. Whilst most were dressed casually, a few people had gone all out with their costumes, no doubt lured by the promise of prizes for best-dressed. There was one woman in a full Carnival-style pearl headpiece and dress who looked absolutely stunning – and I’m pleased to say she later won the top prize.
Once the doors opened, it was only a short wait until Zebra Katz got the crowd pumping with ‘Ima Read’. Naturally when Shystie came on stage, the entire crowd went crazy. From old to new, she performed hit after hit and there wasn’t a person in the place who wasn’t dancing along. Etta Bond was the final act in the rather heavy opening line-up and her track ‘Boring Bitches’ featuring Lady Leshurr succeeded in getting the crowd ready for the Harlem mermaid.
Packed in like sardines in a tin (‘this fish is brined, brined!’) and with the temperature not-so-steadily increasing, the crowd surged forward when Azealia strutted onto the stage. Sweat dripping, the crowd moved in unison to ‘Out Of Space’ and a selection of other tracks from her mixtape and EP. The tracks were kept short for maximum impact and the energy sky rocketed. As usual, her short, sharp and ridiculously fast-paced – not to mention explicit – lyrics were a real crowd pleaser and everyone did their best to sing along to the likes of ‘Jumanji’, ‘1991’ and ‘L8R’.
Her final song, no surprises, was the anthem ‘212’ - the song that she declared was probably how we all came to know of her. I have never seen crowd hype quite like it; as soon as those infamous opening beats blared out of the speakers, screams erupted and the whole building seemed to be moving.
Following the explosive evening we moved onwards to Banks’ afterparty RAGER, at Lazarides’ Bedlam Exhibition in association with HTC at The Old Vic Tunnels. Hosted by Apartment 58 and ZEO, we entered the humid underground venue to hear blaring bass music and see some tired but smiling mermaids. Starting at 11pm, we had a three hour fix of bass, house and dub music before Azealia came on stage to vibe with the DJ. The artist came on and off the stage several times to talk to fans, hand them goodies and have a little dance before her performance.
With friends Shystie, Etta Bond, Vince Kidd, Preeya Kalidas and others in attendance, our favourite ‘Aquababe’ came on stage to belt out hits ‘Van Vogue’ ‘1991’, ‘Liquorice’ ‘Jumanij’ and of course, once again ending on her smash ‘212’.
Currently the Queen of the underground, it won’t be long before Miss Banks becomes involved in some really big name collaborations. It’s about time we saw some new female talent, and hey, she can – and will - be the answer.
Words: Emma Knock (@MissKnock)
Edit: Maz Khan (@MazHalima)