The Garage, Highbury | December 16th
One of the joys of live music, and surely one of the subconscious reasons that moves us to leave our bedrooms for a few hours and stand in dark, beer-stinking, sweaty rooms, is that it makes it feel all the more real. So what happens when someone as seemingly unreal as Action Bronson – a 300 pound, bald Albanian-American, currently sporting a vast ginger beard, who raps over samples of I Only Have Eyes for You by doo-wooppers The Flamingos and soft rockers Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ classic Jackie Blue – enters your reality? One of the most enjoyable gigs of the year.
When Bronson stepped on stage replete in a vast Reebok shirt, toting a bottle of vodka and a box of sneakers, the crowd – and it should be noted this writer has never been to a gig where it’s more obvious who in the audience is there to review it (we were the ones without £50 beanie hats and jawdroppingly expensive sweaters on) – who’d been left pretty nonplussed by UK collective Piff Gang’s rote paeans to marijuana, bounded into life. The Queens rapper played a mix of material from his new collaborative mixtape with The Alchemist Rare Chandeliers and earlier tracks, showcasing his alarmingly easy-to-swallow combination of classicist beats and food-focused metaphors.
It’s rare that a show full of gimmicks – including Bronson repeatedly hopping into the throng, rapping with his arms round fans, walking to the back of the venue to order a Coke at the bar whilst never missing a line, parting the crowd like a modern Moses to get a fan in a wheelchair on stage to join him for a joint and a drink, merrily posing for hundreds of Instagram photos – feels so paradoxically gimmick-free. There were no hypemen ambling about on stage, no visual distractions, nothing other than a very talented rapper, rapping very well. Not content with delivering his own verses with verve, he even hopped in to fill the absent RiFF RAFF’s place on their stunning Harry Fraud-produced Bird on a Wire team-up. Apparently in possession of an innate sense of showmanship, this was a 45 minute masterclass in how to work a crowd with ease.
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Words: Josh Baines