Azeem Live: A reflection
It was as good as it sounds
Hendrix at Woodstock ’69, Led Zeppelin in New York ’73, Nirvana at Reading ’91… Stop the press, the pantheon of popular music’s Greatest Ever Gigs has just got a little more crowded.
The start of this term marked the homecoming of one of Cambridge’s lost sons as, amidst the sweat and angst of Freshers’ Week, maverick flautist Azeem Ward thrilled multitudes of euphoric fans at Revs.
The euphoria may well have been a result of Ward’s meteoric (read: mythological) rise to Internet stardom in the past 6 months. Having innocuously posted an invitation to his Senior Flute Recital in May, he was surprised a few days later to find over 80,000 exam-weary British students had RSVP-ed. The Internet did the rest: spawning Nando’s-related memes, a live-stream watched by 50,000 eager ‘Azeem-ers’ and even an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel.
Indeed, Ward’s talkshow-magnetism was evident as, Dean-esque, he entertained legions of female fans on Revs rooftop before his scheduled 12.30 set.
By the time, however, his publicist had peeled him away, a ravenous crowd had gathered downstairs. Fuelled by 6 for £6 flavoured shots (go Pear Drop: for future reference), and eager for their first glimpse of their idol in action, chants of ‘Azeeeeeem’ began to crescendo to a cathartic cacophony as Ward – flanked by his DJ protege, Underbelly – took to the stage.
He did not disappoint. Pioneering a hybrid of tech-house beats and virtuosic lead-flute melodies, Ward and Underbelly had won over the dancing throng well before they burst into their interpretation of Darude’s timeless ‘Sandstorm’ 3 songs in. A premature punters favourite thanks to multiple parodic Youtube videos, a wave of awe audibly crashed over the dancing arena as the historic-significance of the event was fully realised. ‘Life-changing’ – as one perspiring finalist announced – summed up the mood.
As the musicians warmed up – both kitted out in Azeem’s ‘cheeky’ emblazoned signature white-tee – it was hard to deny the sheer audiovisual force of the performance. To hear that EMI had sent down their highest-ranking executive especially was not surprising. Watch this space.
With the set nearing its climax, and the taste of apple vodka just beginning to linger on the lips of his audience, Azeem prepared his last hurrah. After introducing his special guest – a starstruck local flute flautist – and paying homage to his esteemed sponsors – Cambridge punk-heroes, Sports Team – he energetically launched into a final rendition. With two flutes now working in harmony, Ward had creative licence to thrill, unveiling a chocolate box of the most elegant dance moves seen since Swayze before signing off with a signature wave.
With their hero swallowed backstage in a rapturous applause, the crowds did not linger long. In the heavy post-coital atmosphere, for some, an ironic Nando’s was the only remedy. Others were no doubt tempted by £1 late-entry to Cindies.
All would have agreed though, that despite having his greatness thrust upon him, after such an evening, it remains clear that Ward still wholly deserves the label. It may be easy to reduce the Azeem-phenomenon to a ‘Living Internet Meme’ or a Cheeky Nando’s T-shirt.
Nevertheless, lest us not forget the talented musician underneath, single-handedly reinventing the word ‘flautist’.