Little Simz owned Music Hall of Williamsburg (pics, review)
“Haven’t seen a show till you see me live,” Little Simz raps on “Boss,” a highlight of her new album GREY area and the first song she played at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg last night (6/23). It’s obviously hyperbole but it’s not a baseless claim. Not only does GREY area remain one of 2019’s very best rap albums, Simz puts on a live show that’s better than most of her peers and it’s even clearer in person how good she is at rapping. Without ever relying on a backing track, Simz murdered every line on Sunday night and never stopped to take a breath. Even on a song like “Venom,” which doesn’t even have a beat, Simz never lost her tempo and sped through bar after bar with menace. And she’s not one of those rappers who’s fast for the sake of being fast. There’s real substance to her songs, and that came across live as much as it comes across on her albums.
Before Simz hit the stage, her three-piece band — including a DJ/hypeman, a multi-instrumentalist, and an especially killer drummer, all decked out in matching white outfits — started the intro to “Boss” without her, and then Simz ran out onto the stage with a megaphone and rapped the song with all the aggression and power it has on album. The crowd screamed as soon as she hit the stage, and they yelled the words to the hook so loudly that it nearly drowned Simz out. That was a theme all night. The show was sold out and it was truly packed in there, and it was obvious that the crowd was in awe of her — it was one of the loudest crowds I’d seen in a while. And Simz was clearly grateful and maybe even a little in shock. She talked about it being her biggest NYC show yet, and it clearly did not go unappreciated that all these people came out for her.
She played every song on the new album, as well as earlier cuts “God Bless Mary” from 2015’s A Curious Tale Of Trials + Persons (about her old neighbor Mary, who she said she might not be a rapper today without) and “Backseat” from 2016’s Stillness In Wonderland. At one point, she put down the mic and picked up a bass and her hypeman/DJ took over for a mini DJ-set-meets-jam-session mid set. When playing “101 FM,” she jumped into the crowd and played the whole song on the floor, lovingly mobbed by her fans. And at another point, she talked about how fucked up the world is, and held a moment of silence for the people of Sudan. It was as clear from moments like those as it is from her music that she’s a genuinely powerful artist, and that she’s here to make a real impact with her art.
Before leaving the stage, she turned the spotlight over to her drummer, who powered through a legitimately cool drum solo that had the crowd screaming once again. Simz high-fived him, they left the stage, and then returned for one more song, “Offence.” Along with “Boss,” it’s GREY area‘s most hard-edged, aggressive song, so it saw Simz ending her set on the same powerful, energetic note that it began.
Check out pictures from Sunday night’s show in the gallery above, including opener April + VISTA.
photos by P Squared