A$AP Rocky @ Arena,Brisbane (26/6/2013)

Craziness, smoke and a blitzkrieg of bass. JODY MACGREGOR witnesses A$AP Rocky do his thing in Brisbane.

Outside in the real world, people in maroon are packed in every pub screaming “QUEENSLANDER!” and we technically don’t have a prime minister. But in the Arena tonight none of that matters; the place is packed wall-to-wall for A$AP Rocky and he’s all anyone here cares about right now.

A$AP Ferg is supposed to be the opening act but for whatever reason that doesn’t happen. The house music plays for a couple of hours, the stage lights go on, people lose their shit, and just as calm begins to return A$AP Rocky comes out and everybody loses their shit again. There’s not much point reviewing this as a musical event because it’s more like a blowout that just happens to have rappers at it. The venue’s a concrete sweatbox that’s always had crappy sound even when it’s not hosting hip-hop shows, Rocky raps over tracks that sometimes still have his vocals in them, and the music is just a blitzkrieg of bass that works its way up from your feet, feeling like it could vibrate the contents of your pockets right out of your pants.

“There’s not much point reviewing this as a musical event because it’s more like a blowout that just happens to have rappers at it”

‘Suddenly’ is A$AP Rocky’s way of introducing himself, playing up the triumph of his personal narrative. Pretty soon he’s asking for the purple lights to be turned on though and the real Rocky is with us, one who is just here to party. We’re happy to oblige. When someone in the audience throws him a joint he can barely finish asking for a lighter before one arcs into his hands. He seemed happy to be here before, now he’s ecstatic. His first show in Australia couldn’t be getting a better reception and he’s barely even begun.

Most of the set’s a blur and maybe the thick haze of smoke has something to do with that. A$AP Ferg comes on to help out at some point (A$AP Twelvy’s been there the whole time), ‘PMW (All I Really Need)’ has people shouting along, and when they play ‘Wild For the Night’ everything explodes. Hands in the air, crowdsurfing, slam-dancing – three people squeeze out of the crush with thousand-yard stares like they’re escaping a warzone with this look in their eyes that says, “I’ve seen things. Things you wouldn’t believe.”

After the craziness dies down something interesting happens. Rocky throws water bottles into the crowd and then towels: “We look after our own,” he says. (Also, “Y’all my niggas!” and there is nothing a mostly-white Australian hip-hop crowd likes to hear more.) When people climb onto the stage he tells security not to be rough with them; when someone’s being kicked out he stops to ask what’s going on and talk to the guy before reminding everyone that peace and love is what it’s all about. They bring the ruckus but for someone who just got done shouting “I’m going wild for the night/Fuck being polite!” Rocky’s charmingly concerned with everybody’s safety, even while encouraging us to break the rules.


When they drag people onto stage for the finale he says that he wants two people from each section, one guy and one girl like he’s stocking up Noah’s Ark. The stage quickly fills with dancing girls but they do find a handful of guys as well, including one New Zealander who Rocky lends a mic so he can “freestyle” for a minute. That mic gets yanked out of the guy’s hand when he finishes rapping and starts talking to us as if anybody cares what he’s got to say, but even then Rocky’s nice to the dude.

A million years ago I saw Ice Cube play this venue and he pulled off the same trick of making a bunch of people from the other side of the globe feel included in his world even while his actual words were often hard to make out. Cube has years of experience, so the fact a young guy like A$AP Rocky can already do it is impressive as hell. The way he changes gears and switches to double-speed halfway through a verse is pretty good too, but it’s his charisma, not his skill, that’s the most memorable thing about tonight.

Afterwards Ferg and Twelvy keep going while Rocky departs, basically playing the warm-up set as a cool-down. Rocky says it’s time to start partying, but I’m pretty sure that was what we just did.