Academy 2, Manchester
12 May 2014
Action Bronson brings his weight and energy to a rare UK show. Michael Bennett witnesses the deceptively well-drilled rapper take no prisoners in Manchester.
First, the name is perfect. A cross between Action Jackson, a late 80s B movie classic and the notorious and fame hungry career criminal Charles Bronson, it’s a neat summation of his on stage character, bounding around like a sugar-rushed toddler, hardly pausing for breath.
The basement of the Academy 2 is a place out of time, presumably an old student rest area. Tonight it looks like a Bronx parking garage from an old break dancing video, which is appropriate as you’re unlikely to get this close to an authentic old school block party vibe as this ever again.
The whole thing is simply extraordinary, seemingly shambolic, yet clearly drilled in marine fashion, dozens of stops and starts, false endings, accapellas, freestyles; there’s no time to be bored, it’s punch after punch.
Coming onstage to Father Figure by George Michael, with minimum interference, shows the sheer chutzpah in the plan for the night and there’s no disappointment where this is concerned. The irony, intended or not, is immaterial as most of Bronson’s songs, like his latest mixtape Blue Chips 2, are heavily sampled from 80s pop and Top 40 tunes and probably not familiar to the mostly student-aged attendees. At one point, Bono style, he runs round the room, stopping and sitting whilst his admirers fan him down, then running back on stage to You Could Be Mine by Guns ‘n’ Roses.
It’s fun the way we’d always believed hip hop gigs are meant to be but often aren’t, with too many egos spoiling the broth, but this has energy, wit, attitude, brilliant Djing and a front man with absolute star quality. I would expect to see Action Bronson everywhere in the next 18 months, on a mission to make hip hop fun and funny once again.
All words by Michael Bennett, find his Louder Than War archive here.