Azealia Banks – Live at Manchester Academy

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Dressed in a virginal black-and-white ensemble complimented with a very long weave, Azealia Banks stormed the Manchester Academy stage on Thursday (September 18). Banks was originally meant to play way back in March, but delayed the tour due to labelling disputes which have now (thankfully) been resolved. The tour was touted as ‘The Broke With Expensive Taste Preview Tour’, and boy what a tantalising preview it was.

The white dress she wore, worked to infuse a fresh look into Banks’ image. Gone are the mermaid hangovers from the Fantasea Tour of 2012 – there wasn’t a green weave in sight. Rather, a sense of minimalist talent encapsulated the entire set. As Banks herself said, “fuck what has happened in the past” (I’m talking about those countless Twitter beefs). She is still here, she is still relevant, and she has the talent to show it; her performance totally blew her past tour out of the water.

‘Count Contessa’ from the seemingly trashed Fantasea II: The Second Wave, opened the set. Despite being a relatively unknown track which received no official release, the crowd lapped up the performance and sang/rapped along. Clearly Banks has a dedicated fan base as this statement is true of many of her songs. Only the diehard fans will have heard most of her songs, and yet the room was packed and everybody was singing. Banks sure knows how to work a crowd.

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Between songs Banks expressed her distaste of her past Twitter beefs, her regret for not releasing the album sooner, and her affirmation of love for her fans. Apparently Broke With Expensive Taste will finally be released at the top of 2015, but I’ll not be holding my breath.

Banks played a host of songs from her Fantasea mixtape, her 1991 extended play, the upcoming Broke With Expensive Taste, along with unreleased tracks. Each one went down a storm. From the fiercely sassy vocals of ‘Fierce’, to the RnB grooves of ‘Van Vogue’, Banks played each one with relish. She got most of the older ones out of the way first – ‘Chips’, ‘Atlantis’, ‘Aquababe’, before greeting us with tracks from the new album.

‘Heavy Metal And Reflective’ is so loved by the fans that their screaming the lyrics often drowned out Banks’ own vocal; ‘Yung Rapunxel’ was deafeningly screeched with a megaphone, but it generated an iconic image for Banks. ‘BBD’ was remixed into a pulsing dance track which the fans loved, showing that it was perhaps a smart move to re-include this track on the album after earlier dropping it. Each new track was loved by the fans and whilst an eclectic range of sounds surely awaits us, Broke With Expensive Taste will go down as a classic.

Two previously unheard tracks were showcased on the night. ‘Wallace’ was rather refined for Banks, highlighting her impeccable singing voice rather than her rapping. The beat was simplistic and minimalist, and whilst ‘Wallace’ probably isn’t good enough to be a single, the studio version will likely be stunning nevertheless. ‘Chasing Time’, on the other hand, is destined to be a single. Banks said of the track, that her record label believed her to have nothing that could be played on the radio and so she went back into the studio and created a song which she thinks is ‘the one’. Boy is it. Banks raps and sings about wasting her time chasing after someone (a stance a lot of her fans may sympathise with?). She sang “Am I chasing time?/Because I’m wasting all mine on you” over a pounding dance track which drew goose bumps. The fans loved it – this NEEDS to be released as a single.

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Unlike a lot of artists, Banks is a born performer. She sings and raps impeccably live, as highlighted in the fast-paced songs ‘Fuck Up The Fun’, ‘Liquorice’ and ‘No Problems’. Her final song of the night is perhaps the song she has to try and better, it’s the wildly popular ‘212’. An a cappella version greeted the fans before the instantly recognisable beat began. Once more Banks was drowned out by the fans screaming. She sure has come a long way since this was released back in 2011, but her fans love it and she will always remain a constant on the music scene; ‘212’ is a classic, and rightfully so.

Her encore consisted of the pulsing ‘Esta Noche’ which had the fans jumping up and down and screaming aloud, and the Paul Oakenfold assisted ‘Venus’, during which she previewed a previously unheard verse. This song seriously deserves to be recognised; it is completely stunning.

As a preview of the debut album, ‘The Broke With Expensive Taste Preview Tour’ worked incredibly well. If at all possible, it’s got me even more desperate for the album. It is sure to be a seminal body of work. Banks has a lot to prove to her naysayers, and I sincerely hope that she pulls it off; the kunt is back.