Azealia Banks: The Rainbow Ball at Sony Hall (6/23 to 6/24) – Recap/ Review

Azealia Banks' name on a screen.

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Azealia Banks’ “The Rainbow Ball” brings many a quality performance, but not an experience you’d want to repeat or recommend to friends and family.


Venue Sony Hall
Date 6/23-6/24
Opening Act(s) Sateen, DonMonique
Headliner Azealia Banks
Good If You Like Pop/House Music

Hip-Hop

Musicians Who Perform But Don’t Necessarily Put On A Show

Total Time Roughly 3 Hours

The Venue

Sony Hall, in their basement, isn’t the best venue for a concert. Problem number 1 came in the form of us being stuck in the staircase since it seems there was an issue. One which we got no communication about. If you didn’t overhear something on the radio, all that would happen is one gentleman trying to work his way up the stairs so he could to scan tickets. A staircase that, by the way, seemingly was the main way in and out so the kitchen, and other staff, had to play Moses.

So, needless to say, things didn’t start out great. We didn’t actually get into the stage area until 11:30 with the doors opening at 11 PM. From there, it should be noted that I wanna say purchasing VIP to get to the sitting areas may not be necessary. If just because the security isn’t that aggressive and it seems their focus, rightfully so, is more so the amount of broken glass which seems to happen during the night.

Also, as for security, unlike the Bowery Ballroom, the security is much friendly and seem like young guys who don’t absolutely hate their jobs.  And while they technically are supposed to take phones and make it a hassle to have it out, they didn’t do that. The one near my section tried once with this Asian person, they got stared down like they lost their damn mind, and he didn’t try again. Mind you, this dude had to be at least 6’2 and definitely had some muscles under his suit.

Which is all to say, you can have a good time just don’t mess up other people’s good time.

As for sound quality? I was off to the side and I could barely hear the opening acts at all. Probably because most of the sound seems to be pointed towards the center. So, at most, you’ll get the bass vibrating the floor but clarity? Especially vocals which, like with most concerts, easily can get drowned out by the music? Well, sadly the opening acts seem like sound check.

The Crowd

It’s Pride month and the boys, girls, and the girls came out to see Ms. Banks and her opening acts. To say the least, this was probably the most lively crowd I’ve been a part of since I started going to concerts. Unlike with other concerts, people danced, they weren’t all watching each set through their phones and there was never a need to ask for them to scream, throw their hands up, or nothing like that. They came to have a good time. This wasn’t just something to do on a late Friday night.

Which is why they got agitated a little after the opening acts were finished, but we’ll get to that.

The Opening Act(s)

Sateen

 

#sateen #RainbowBall #concert

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Things started off with Sateen at about 11:54 and they performed a 4 song set. When it comes to their music, it is very pop/ house. The type which sounded perfect for when you’re getting ready to head out to work or a social event, and you need to hype yourself up a bit. And with the crowd in action, who loved the opening act being a trans woman, Exquisite, and lead vocalist Miss Sateen, so began the vibe that this was going to be a different experience. Not just because Sateen was in very revealing attire and, in a more fun than sexual way, playful about it. It was the crowd.

For a lot of opening acts, because they are just the lead up to the headliner, people are on their phones or paying attention because there is nothing else to. That wasn’t the case here. Be it they had fans in the audience, or quickly gained them, you’d believe these two ladies could maybe command the same audience with or without being attached to Banks.

Now, would I see them personally? Probably not. Primarily because they don’t really do much on stage. Exquisite plays the guitar and Miss Sateen works the stage a bit, shakes her behind a little, and that’s it. I’d be better off getting a Spotify subscription if that’s all I’m going to get from a live performance.


With that said, one good thing about Sateen is at least they announced their songs. Which, considering there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch, makes it a bit more easy to find things for casual listening.

The two stands outs were their first song, “Take My Picture” and “Give A Look.”

DonMonique

 

#DonMonique

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The whole sound quality issue hit DonMonique hard because I could barely hear enough words from her to know what she was rapping. Which wasn’t helped by her not doing the usual, “This is my song —-.” That is completely void in her set so all that can be remembered is her giving the audience a blunt and some dark liquor. Alongside her hype man keeping the energy going, quite well if I may add.

Which is a shame too because what little I did hear sounded like it went hard. It’s just, like so many opening acts, it’s like they get treated like some kind of back up sound check for the headliner. And with DonMonique being a rapper, the lack of vocal clarity made it so, if unfamiliar with her, you can’t really catch onto the lyrics.

And, unlike Sateen, who could get by on just a beat and a vibe, rappers can’t do that. Their lyrics and flow are what separates the ones who can and should be considered legit and those who are either trash or will remain underground. Which isn’t terrible to be but, through Banks, you can understand how frustrating it can be to know you are better than these mainstream artist yet don’t get the fame, money, nor credit they do.

Oh, and I should note she is another performer who works the stage by walking from one side to another and dancing a little bit. Nothing choreographed or anything like that, just a few club dances. The kind which everybody does so it doesn’t add much to their set.

The Headliner

Azealia Banks


Let’s start off by saying there were issues in the beginning. For one, DonMonique finished her set around 1 AM and Azealia Banks didn’t get on until around 2:15. To compare, Jill Scott’s 2017 concert, including opening act, was an hour and 40 minutes. Erykah Badu only gave a 30-minute wait, and she didn’t have an opening act when I saw her. So for Azealia Banks to have a crowd wait an hour and 15 minutes, when the stage didn’t have to change a bit, was ridiculous.

What also didn’t help is that the first DJ, whose name escaped me, they played a decent mix of dance remixes to classics like Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name” and Aaliyah’s “One in a Million.” The second DJ though? It was straight up trance or house music played to the point of sounding like it was on repeat to buy time. Which, for one concertgoer, it was clearly not just pissing them off but quite a few others. After all, it is Pride weekend and the big parade was later on that day! So the girls, they were missing a lot of good parties for Ms. Banks and trying to support her.

Which leads to that communication issue again. The venue didn’t say anything and if I wasn’t venting on Twitter, with the barely there cell phone reception I could get, I wouldn’t have known she posted on Instagram she was on her way but stuck in traffic. Why? Well, apparently there was something going on with her lace front. Something she had to address within a few songs and leaves the stage. Only for about 5 minutes though.

#azealiabanks is here and the lull is leaving the room

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So, first off, who the hell ever heard of a headliner not at the venue when the show started? It’s one thing when patrons decide to skip the opening act but Banks is perhaps one of the main reasons people came. This is one of her first performances after getting back on a major label and trying to keep her nose clean. Why in the hell wouldn’t she be extra paranoid and be at the venue and getting all your s*** handled there? Never mind perhaps doing a meet and greet or something like that?

But I digress for when she got on stage my frustrations went away. Not necessarily because she was just this magnetic performer. Unlike Lizzo, and despite Banks doing choreography in most of her videos, she barely dances or anything like that. Her claim to fame is pushing the narrative she is a singer who raps, rather than vice versa. Which, for those who don’t like your favorite songs remixed, know she doesn’t try to make her raps more like songs. She’ll sing the intro, to flex a bit, but then she does the track as you are familiar with it.

Oh, and if you don’t know her songs, ask somebody because, like DonMonique, she isn’t telling you what she is about to do. You either know it or you don’t. But, to give a genuine compliment, I loved the fact that, throughout the whole show, for each set, the crowd was hyped. For Banks especially, she is probably the first headliner, I’ve seen, who never had to say “Put your hands up,” Everybody scream!” and when she put the mic out? There wasn’t whispers or any need to tell the crowd to get louder. You could clearly hear everyone recite the lyrics. You didn’t have to be next to a super fan, the whole room was like one large community welcoming back a beloved member who made it big.

And that perhaps was the best part of the whole show. As much as Banks was feeding off our energy, we also fed off each other. Making for a night which may have had some Philadelphia sized potholes, but things ended smoothly.

Set List

  1. Chi-Chi
  2. Give Me A Chance
  3. Movin’ On Up
  4. Desperado
  5. Luxury
  6. Anna Wintour
  7. Escapades (Pleasure Phase)
  8. Heavy Metal & Reflective
  9. Liqurorice
  10. The Big Big Beat
  11. Miss Amor
  12. 212

Highlights

The Crowd

With a lot of concerts, they seem isolated to individuals or groups. Be it just from the people in my section, or the ones I saw, there was more of a community vibe. Now, maybe it is because a lot of the concerts I’ve gone to weren’t LGBTQIA heavy, so you don’t get that sense of being part of a community event. However, whether it was that reason or not, the lack of people watching through their phones, people actually dancing, and really seeming like they trying to get the most out of their ticket, that made the experience enjoyable.

Also, for wallflower types like me who usually people watch, you get the sense that you aren’t a ghost in the corner. That, even just for one night, you are part of the people and can be free, validated, and comfortable.

Sateen’s and DonMonique’s Vibe

To keep it 100 with you, I will probably not buy anything from either act but I do appreciate what they bring to music. As noted, Sateen’s music sounds awesome for when you need to pep yourself up and while I couldn’t understand a word DonMonique said, her making blunts and pouring dark liquor into people’s mouths made her seem interesting. To the point that, even if they are from 2015, it really pushes you to want to hear this young woman’s story. Find out why she hasn’t blown up.

Same goes for Sateen. They are an eccentric band with catchy dance music. What gives?

The First DJ

For a good while, the DJ was a valuable distract from the time between sets. Almost to the point that, as DonMonique’s presentation played on the two screens, you’d think they were DonMonique and they were doing their set. One which was simply mixing records.

Criticism

Serious Lack of Communication

I understand a lot goes into a concert that we can’t even fathom, but communication goes a long way. Be it in terms of getting in the room to find your spot or the headliner having it where someone gets on the mic to say they are running late. As one of the girls said, Banks is not that girl. She doesn’t have that Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, or even Lauryn Hill legacy where people will wait for her begrudgingly and not throw a bit of a fit. Because, straight up, after a certain point, people started booing the DJ. It didn’t last long, but it was made clear people, and not just pockets of them, were getting seriously agitated.

On The Fence

Banks As A Headliner

Taking note of that long ass gap between her set and DonMonique, I must admit that once Banks was there, she largely was forgiven for being late. Not completely, for an hour and 15 minutes is ridiculous for someone at her level, but I forgot most of my animosity while she was on stage. Yet, here is my issue: When it comes to concerts, I’m of the opinion you need to do something which crafts an experience. Something that goes beyond watching your music videos or someone’s damn near DVD quality video on YouTube. With Banks, you don’t get that.

Despite being someone who is moderately known for her choreography, she barely does any. Heck, her dancers are infrequently on stage. They come and go so much it makes you wonder what is going on sometimes. But, I should note, I’m comparing her stage performance to Lizzo and taking note Lizzo is a big girl and was dancing and performing like Mo’Nique was at the BET Awards long ago, what was up with Azealia?

On top of that, being that Azealia is a jokester and very opinionated, the fact she only joked about the possibility of her lace front coming off was disappointing. Not to say I was expecting long speeches about PRIDE, her role in the community, a controversial statement, or anything like that. I was just hoping that the personality which comes with being a fan of Banks would be on display, alongside hearing the music.

Overall: Mixed (Video Recording)

Though general admission was roughly $47, there are a lot of better things you spend that kind of money on. Especially when a headliner relies on you checking their social media to get any sort of information about them being late vs. someone of their team, who you’d assume would be there, letting you know something. Hell, even someone putting up the IG story on the multiple screens, if not using the screen and her going live on IG to say she is on her way – There was all this technology around but from start to finish, the communication was minimal.

But the heart of this being mixed label is while seeing Banks and her opening acts live was fun, it wasn’t an experience. Banks didn’t do more than sing live, move a little on stage, and joke about her lace front likely falling out. Which, for some, maybe all you need. A live performance, a bit of interaction, and you’re happy. Me? Someone who pays for their tickets and even if I got a press pass, there is still travel costs and time spent… Taking note of all that, I am of the opinion that unless Banks ups her game, there is no point in seeing her live.

And in case you want to blame her budget? Let me note Lizzo again. She had a similarly sized stage, two dancers, and a DJ, like Banks, and a profile not on Banks level. Yet, her performance would make Banks seem like an opening act. Heck, Tank and the Bangas, whose band barely fit on the stage, they had far more energy than Banks. So, it isn’t money which is the problem but effort. Something I feel that, if you have moderate to high expectations, you may remain a fan but figure this was your contribution to her career and now you are going to stick to streaming which barely pays her pennies.


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About Amari Sali 2902 Articles
New Jersey native Amari Sali takes the approach of more so being a media advisor than a critic to sort of fill in the gap left between casual fans of media and those who review productions for a living. Thus being open about bias while still giving enough insight, often with spoilers, to present whether something is worth seeing, buying, renting, streaming, or checking out at all.