Azealia Banks Brings Her 'Mermaid Ball' to Hollywood: Concert Review

Azealia Banks Mermaid Ball Fonda Theater - P 2012
Chris Godley

Azealia Banks Mermaid Ball Fonda Theater - P 2012

Giving new meaning to enchantment under the sea, the buzzing Harlem rapper makes a case for why her hype is well-deserved while throwing a mermaid-themed party.

The 21-year-old Harlem hip-hop phenom Azealia Banks – whose star has been rising this past year as one of rap's most exciting female newcomers -- did not disappoint her sold-out audience Saturday night at Hollywood's Fonda Theatre. It was Banks’ first time back to Southern California since playing Coachella, and she returned with a special treat for her L.A. fans, hosting a colorful mermaid-themed party complete with costumes, confetti and cotton candy.

The Mermaid Ball, as it was called, brought together a bill of promising, young, cutting-edge pop princesses, including Charli XCX, Rye Rye and Maluca. Following a similar extravaganza she hosted in New York last month, the west coast version was equally well-executed in how it transformed the venue into an "Under the Sea"-themed high school prom -- without the adult supervision.

Fish and octopus balloons floated about while green and blue ones looked like seaweed. Surrounding the stage from box seats on both sides of the house, scantily-clad dancers moved seductively and between them floated big metallic letters tied by a string that read "FANTASEA" -- the title of Banks' new mixtape. Meanwhile, in the lobby, concession stands dished out free cotton candy and popcorn, while staffers were outfitted as mermaids hoping to win the night's costume contest and the $1,000 grand prize.

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With the help of two backup dancers, Rye Rye delivered a lively set that had the audience grooving along to tracks like "Wassup Wassup" and "DNA" and screaming giddily when Robyn showed up for a guest appearance on the slowed down "Never Will Be Mine." Later, Britain’s Charli XCX brought an emotive, dark and pounding performance, hypnotizing the crowd with music that can best be described as the most intellectually challenging of the evening.

But without a doubt, the night belonged to prom queen Banks. A trouncing in the costume contest -- where a girl dressed in full fish-tail and seashell bra beat out a cross-dressing feathered belly dancer and a man carrying a fishtank with real goldfish... on his head -- whipped the crowd into a frenzied state, which was the perfect entrance for the buzzing newcomer. Taking the stage in combat boots, sunglasses and a transparent unitard with metallic magenta stripes to cover her privates, Banks busted into the hard-hitting Diplo-produced "Fuck up the Fun" with confidence.

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With only a four-song EP and the just-released Fantasea mixtape to her name, both of which she exhausted for her set, it was surprising that Banks didn't banter much during the show, though she did call out the stoners in the crowd getting high on "that California weed." Her set could have gone on longer, too -- or included an encore -- without complaint, but the songs she did choose were almost exclusively bangers, crescendoing their way to the end with "Jumanji," "1991" and "Liquorice."

The night's most memorable moment came with the closer, Bank's breakout single "212." While she sang through the addictive refrain, hundreds of pink, blue, green and purple balloons fell from the ceiling as confetti cannons blasted endlessly into the air. By the time sightline was restored, Banks was gone and the curtain was coming down leaving only a few lingering particles falling to the floor and an audience dripping with sweat.

Set List:

"Fuck up the Fun"
"Van Vogue"
"Ima Read" (Zebra Katz)
"Esta Noche"

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