Live Review: Die Antwoord at London Brixton Academy – 22nd June 2013

By on Wednesday, 3rd July 2013 at 2:00 pm

The Academy hummed in anticipation of South Africa’s rap/rave crossover collective Die Antwoord; the crowd were quickly drawn into sporadic crescendos of ecstasy by the group’s carefully orchestrated pre-show soundscape. This wasn’t a conventional gig. There were no instruments, the fashionistas were out in droves and you couldn’t help but notice how many people stuck to drinking water. Instead, it was a night of often alluring and occasionally provocative juxtapositions; a chemically charged festival of vice contained within a shell that reverberated in mesmeric phosphorescence.

With two full albums under their belts – debut ‘$O$’ and 2011’s ‘Ten$ion’ – since their inception in 2007, the band have witnessed something of a boom of late, partly due to their close collaborations with American photographer Roger Ballen. He’s given them a trademark visual style that has generated over 30 million hits for their videos on Youtube, heightening the live experience to both attract and repulse all of your senses simultaneously.

A fluorescent orange stag’s head pulsated out of the darkness as a masked DJ Hi-Tek spun into his own buzzing opener ‘DJ Hi-Tek Rulez’. MCs Ninja and Yolandi Visser – one a gangly, gyrating provocateur, the other an over-sexed female incarnate of The Omen’s Damien – burst from the wings, resplendent in a pair of Jimmy Savile’s old tracksuits, to the toe-to-toe tension of ‘Fok Julle Naaiers’. Yolandi’s vocals seem to pitch up an octave live, whilst Ninja weaves his way from Afrikaans, to English, to Xhosa, with a sound that could be heard in any of Brixton’s old-guard hip-hop clubs.

Through ‘Wat Pomp’, ‘Hey Sexy’ and ‘Dis Iz Why I’m Hot’ both shed layers like Russian dolls, with Ninja holding fort at the front while Yolandi ventures out over the DJ podium. Two dancers in balaclavas appear to keep the crowd writhing as the pair settle into the double-time beat of ‘Fatty Boom Boom’. The infectiously arrogant ‘Money and Da Power’ rifled through visuals with all the insanity of the boat ride in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, a condensed tour of Ballen’s labyrinthine grey matter that slides into the self-effacing ‘Rich Bitch’.

By ‘Pitbull Terrier’, Ninja and Yolandi have been joined by what looks like an inflatable cross between Doughboy and an Aztec fertility symbol, in a move that made their sexualisation appear even more ‘Eurotrash’. Parity is returned during the videogame assault that is ‘I Fink You Freeky’. It’s no surprise this number’s gained more traction than any of their others so far. A metronomic, almost industrial vocal ties down a high-tension synth line, and when it drops to the sound of “jump motherfucker, jump”, that’s exactly what the crowd does. The MCs crouch at either side of the stage during an extended rendition of the trancey ‘Never Le Nkemise 2’ that marks the end of their set proper, leaving a not-quite-fully-cocked audience pleading for more. The screaming masses are rewarded as Die Antwoord return with their 2009 zef classic ‘Enter the Ninja’, crowning the night off in a wall of euphoric sound.

The whole thing lasted a little under an hour and a half with no support act, so a plate-eyed portion of the crowd may have been dropped off a smidgen short on their proverbial ride, but for the rest of us that time existed in perfect isolation. It was, however, good to hear them announce that they would be taking time out to work on new material once the European tour is complete. Their aesthetic has already developed into something so beautifully repulsive – as with their sound on tracks such as ‘I Fink You Freeky’ – that if they continue in the same vein, their future looks brighter than Yolandi’s sparkling gold tights.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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