Steve Lacy | Review

Amy Toma

Photography: Karishama Singh | @karishamasingh

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Described by i-D as ‘the voice of a generation’, Steve Lacy is the Grammy-winning, multi-instrumentalist, and producer of The Internet. His recent solo album, Apollo XXI is an introspective, yet playful exploration of love, identity, and sexuality. Steve Lacy took the Grammy-nominated album on an energy-filled world tour, with Australia and New Zealand being the final leg of the trip. Karishama and I were lucky enough to see him perform at the Metro Theatre on Saturday 15th February.

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Walking in, we saw signs with Microsoft-Office-style word art that told us phones were not allowed, since Steve wanted to see our faces. And this was actually enforced, with security guards shining flashlights on the poor suckers that decided they would try their luck regardless. The crowd was large for opening DJ Bapari, who looked absolutely in her element as she played song after song, with a few almost bored glances at the crowd.

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Following Bapari’s warming up of the crowd, Steve Lacy strode out onto the stage to a chorus of cheers. Wearing a terracotta-coloured two piece set – like pyjamas, but make it fashion – he was met with deafening applause. Armed with nothing but a synth, a rotation of guitars, and the DJ backing of the effortlessly cool Bapari, he launched into song by playing the smooth opening track of Apollo XXI, ‘Only If’, executing the soaring vocals with ease. He transitioned smoothly into a higher tempo with ‘Like Me’, a celebration of his own sexual fluidity, and a song made in an effort to relate to other queer people.

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After ‘Playground’, he admitted that the show was his third in a row, and that he was “hammered”, but the crowd itself was giving him energy – and what an energetic show it was. ‘Basement Jack’ was performed with a whole lot of groove, and Steve’s sensual performance of ‘Lay Me Down’ slowed everything down.

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At some point, well into the set, Steve stopped singing and playing guitar, and turned to the synth on his right, and began producing an avant-garde, ET-like melody. The lights accentuated the music by producing a futuristic, strobe effect. The experience culminated with Steve returning to the microphone and nonchalantly announcing, “I just abducted all of you”. Safe to say, no one was mad at that.

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He sang other Apollo XXI tracks such as ‘Hate CD’, ‘In Love We Trust’, and ‘Love 2 Fast’, while playing the guitar with incredible skill. He left the stage while instrumental guitar-violin track ‘Amandla’s Interlude’ played on the sound system to a completely blacked out stage. The anticipation was immense, until he returned to the stage wearing an iridescent orange dress apron and sparkling dangly earrings, which was met with wolf-whistles from the crowd.

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He prefaced the outfit change by stating that he is his own stylist, and with a sweet anecdote about his mother. He shared with the crowd that in regards to his style, his mother always said “if you like it, I love it”, and he encouraged everyone to wear whatever they wanted since “love starts with you”. He followed this up by playing single ‘N Side’, the lyrics of which were sung back to him by almost everyone in the room. He then played ‘Outro Freestyle/4ever’, in which he took a moment to genre-bend and flex his rapping skills. He played a few of his classic, pre-album tracks such as ‘C U Girl’, ‘Ryd’, and ‘Some’. He began to sing the first few bars of ‘Dark Red’, before stopping abruptly and announcing it was his last song.

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Steve and Bapari left the stage after ‘Dark Red’, to a round of applause and shouts for an encore. When he finally returned to the stage, he let us know that he “hated fake encores”. Having not prepared anything for an encore, he began to play over the sound system one of his new songs that hadn’t been released yet. The entire crowd seemed to move in unison with him as he danced on stage to his own song. The song in question was different to his usual style, it had a trap feel to it, with heavy drums and rap vocals.

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Steve Lacy’s gig was like a party where you don’t really know many people, but everyone is super friendly and makes you feel welcome. The emphasis on the connection between Steve and the crowd really made it a worthwhile gig, as having no phones allowed meant that everyone was truly present and able to appreciate the performance. Steve’s performance was peppered with little anecdotes and odd moments, such as him drinking a whole bottle of water to a ridiculous amount of applause. These moments allowed us to truly connect as an audience with him, and helped his personality shine through the facade that performers often adopt on stage. Steve Lacy’s gig was one of the best I’ve been to in a while, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.