with Walk the Moon
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
Friday, October 17, 2014
One strange thing about an Iggy Azalea concert is that while it pulls from hip-hop, it also skips blithely past it. The Australian rap sensation puts on what is essentially a pop concert, grabbing genre tropes to toy with along the way.
There's levels to this shit, and the University of Minnesota students celebrating homecoming at TCF Bank Stadium was a wholly different subset of ticket-buyers than Azalea's last Minneapolis appearance. Two years ago, she performed alongside local female rap acts like BdotCroc, the Lioness, and the Chalice ('member them?) at the Fine Line. The key to making such a huge venue jump is the level of pop leanings and radio presence to keep mega-hit "Fancy" atop the Billboard Hot 100 longer than any female rapper in history. These necessary components are rarities among rap acts -- period.
Cincinnati's Walk the Moon are an earnest, endearing art-pop outfit that served well as a warm-up act, fueling the audience's desire to wave their hands and sing in high registers. Combining slight flourishes of noisy synths with straight-ahead radio rock and anthemic falsetto, the songs were uniformly super-positive and uplifting -- literally so on "I Can Lift a Car."
Preceded by a "group exercise" in which lead singer Nicholas Petricca told us to push out all negative energy into the cosmos in a diatribe both markedly cornball and refreshingly sincere, the song became the set's center point and swept the crowd with a contrived rush of vibrancy.
Their feel-good sing-alongs reeked of aspirations for radio play and Maroon 5-level stardom, and they've got all the elements in place to make it happen. Seemingly everyone ate it up, soaking in the heartfelt positivity as it wove between arena rock, synth-pop, and the occasional riffy breakdown. Closing on early hit "Anna Sun," the group proved kind of boring but fairly infectious with the crowd, who awkwardly danced wildly while standing at their seats.
DJ Mad Mardigan spun between sets, dropping a nice mix of rap staples ("Go DJ," Hot N*gga," "Anaconda") and local favorites ("Wegula," "Animal"), which seemed to mostly go over people's heads.
Mardigan turned in a fairly solid rap DJ interim set but it wasn't exactly a rap audience. Once Iggy Azalea arrived, it was a fairly standard pop performance, with loud beats, flashy visuals, synchronized dance moves, lip syncing, and familiar songs, and it delivered precisely what you'd want from that sort of show.The crowd response was directly proportional to how many hits any given song's video had on YouTube. The more popular tracks generated a Pavlovian hype, while other songs felt like filler. Fans got exactly what they wanted, though Iggy herself didn't have to pull most of the weight. [page]
Pop is a machine. There's a vast team of people working to make Iggy Azalea Inc. a viable company that moves records, sells out venues, and racks up the aforementioned YouTube views.
We're talking songwriters, producers, backup dancers, visual artists, management teams, wardrobe designers, etc. Songs are products, and if there's a lane open in mainstream radio for a white Nicki Minaj, it will eventually be filled by the market. Someone's got to be the face of this business, but in this instance the front-person was putting forth the least effort of anyone.
Azalea came off like a middle manager on stage -- the team member who worked the least but got the most money and credit for it. There were multiple points in the concert when she waltzed through with an emotional absence akin to Betty Draper -- going through the motions with a cold detachment from her own concert. Behind her were a team of backup dancers and singers, all of whom were putting their best foot forward.
Azalea, the lone white face onstage, would often point at the other girls as they twerked, belted harmonies, and generally made the show more lively -- a move that felt both condescending and profoundly lazy.
"Shawna's my understudy," she said at one point, referring to one of her dancers who carries the weight for when she's "too tired to dance." She sat down several times throughout the show, at times to accentuate the downtempo feel of certain songs like "Don't Need Ya'll," but also unnecessarily through club tracks like "No Mediocre."
She had occasional dance moves, consisting mostly of hair flips and minute ass gyrations -- reserved for specific points in the songs so as not to hold to that level of intensity consistently. Mostly it was her team that held down the visual entertainment portion, especially with lots of the vocals coming out via backing track. The cultural appropriation at the core of Iggy's career never felt more egregious than when seeing her directly benefit from those around her. The show was never outright boring but very rarely was the featured performer the highlight of what was on stage.
Ending on her mega-hit "Fancy," which let a Charlie XCX backing track and hook-belting crowd shoulder most of the burden of performing, Azalea closed out a swift set with the song everyone was waiting for. Hand gestures and pretending to mouth the verses increased tenfold as the rapt audience got the opportunity to do their favorite karaoke routine with the artist herself. This is the gratifying moment of any concert of this size, the song everyone knows and has waited patiently for, and it went off just as huge as it should have.
Gigantic singles like "Fancy" grab listeners so intensely, and seeing the song scratch the audience's itch en masse was fairly affecting. The major deterrent of crowd energy was the seating arrangement, and this could've been a moment of chaotic abandon had it been held on the field instead of in the stands.
Iggy thanked her audience, reveling in the glow of the grand finale, as DJ Wizz Kidd let the remainder of the song play out. It was what you'd expect and want from a big-name artist with few actual records under her belt. The machinations of the Vanilla Ice business model showed through fairly blatantly to fans who couldn't care less.Personal Bias: It's always been a difficult thing for me to look out at a sea of people and critique their tastes. Far be it from me, the piddling critic ushered to the sidelines with an agenda distinctly different from that of the vast amounts of paying attendees, to begin to question the aesthetics of a concert where everyone was clearly enjoying themselves.
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