HMV Ritz, Manchester | Friday 8th June
Less than a year since he exploded out of obscurity onto the world stage with the mesmerising Purple Swag and Peso, A$AP Rocky showed Manchester’s HMV Ritz he has truly arrived as a superstar.
With a distinctive southern-inspired flow and a host of dreamy promethazine-fuelled beats, Rocky instantly stood out from his native Harlem by combining a unique sound with a strong eye for fashion and his trademark gold grills. And with such marketable characteristics it is little surprise that Rocky’s newly found underground success turned into a major recording contract within the space of just a few months. On the evidence of his performance on a torrential Friday evening in Manchester, his speedy ascent is entirely justified.
The audience turned out early and in force to pack the Ritz’s central pit and large wrap-around balconies in eager anticipation. Support Starslinger started off proceedings with a fun, high tempo set to a focused crowd left largely unmoved. When A$AP Rocky’s turn was up the mood switch was palpable. The self-styled ‘pretty motherfucker’ bounced on stage to the gun clip clicks and pager beeps of the SpaceGhostPurrp-produced Pretty Flacko, working the adoring crowd from the outset.
From there Rocky expertly cut his way through his as yet relatively small catalogue of hits – the set lasting under an hour – as if well-seasoned in world touring. The overall clarity of his vocals was excellent, allaying Crack’s fears of the subtleties of his vocal delivery and the floating production of the likes of Clams Casino being lost on stage. But the small amount that was lost was made up for in the way Rocky used his star quality to create a real party atmosphere. The audience were just about as lively as possible without descending into aggro-fuelled moshpits, bodies heaving in upbeat fervour. Rocky’s obligatory stage diving and constant appeals to the crowd encouraged the excitement of an unrestrained set of fans.
High points were of course some of his biggest hits Wassup, Kissin’ Pink and most recent single Goldie. But when A$AP Yams, the Puerto Rican with a distinct purple birthmark on his face who masterminds A$AP, joined Rocky on stage and both were drenched in purple lighting there was no uncertainty about what was going to happen. As the warped strings of Purple Swag called out, Yams bounded around the stage as Rocky’s delivery drove the devoted audience mad. After finishing with the impeccable Peso, Rocky stayed onstage for fifteen minutes jumping around to dirty south tracks while tens of people crowd surfed to the front and tried to invade the stage, Rocky and Yams dragging people up as security tried to hold them back. Eventually he cleared off stage having put a smile on the face of everyone there. A natural entertainer.
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Words: Aaron Z Willson