Azealia Banks

COSMO GODFREE arrived interested, and left infatuated.

212 aquababe azealia banks dj cosmo fantasea hudson mowhawke jumanji mermaid rapper swag The Junction

Tuesday 9th October, The Junction

There a few things more guaranteed to cheer you up than a last-minute surprise, especially when circumstances conspire to mean that you spend the evening watching Azealia Banks slay the Junction rather than doing the reading for your Plato essay.

Perhaps the only lowlight was fairly tiresome warm-up set from DJ Cosmo, a man whose ridiculous hat was surpassed only by his propensity for triggering samples of his name being shouted ad infinitum. And what a ridiculous name.

Anyway, by the time it came to the main act, the crowd’s considerable energy had been boxed up for some time. All Azealia had to do was walk out onto the stage and the lid came flying off. Not outstaying her welcome, she rushed through a slick and punchy set that contained little in the way of filler. Her energy was infectious, her smile even more so. She has the stage presence of someone who has been performing to huge audiences for decades.

The sense of occasion was heightened by the fact that this was a rare-ish UK performance from a relatively new singer who cancelled a whole string of festival dates over the summer. Maybe too late to say “I was there” before everyone else catches on to the Azealia phenomenon, but certainly the last chance to catch her before the long-delayed debut album drops next year.

A large part of the appeal is the beats, which are chunky, cartoonish and danceable, rather than oppressive. Take the Hudson Mohawke-produced ‘Jumanji’ as a good example, full of steel drums and horn blasts. Another track off the ‘Fantasea’ mixtape is ‘Aquababe’, which provides a slightly darker vibe, yet is another clear highlight.

Azealia’s trademark mermaid aesthetic was in evidence everywhere, from the lightshow to the audience’s “AB” emblazoned baseball caps. Some of the more devoted gig-goers had even dyed their hair turquoise for the evening. As if it wasn’t already clear, there can be no doubt that Azealia Banks is the kind of act that fans make a real effort for.

Really though, there was only one reason – as the singer herself so wryly pointed out – that a large chunk of the audience (myself included) were here tonight. I refer, of course, to the unstoppable swaggering juggernaut of a song that is ‘212’. The beat kicks in, the room erupts, Azealia nails every vocal hook with conviction, and every filthy word is sung right back at her. Azealia Banks is more than just ‘212’, but that doesn’t stop it being simultaneously one of the most instant and durable breakthrough singles of recent years.

Entering the Junction as a casual Azealia fan, I left a rather more committed one, and I’m sure that I wasn’t alone on this front. It’s pretty difficult not to be converted after witnessing a performance like that.