Whatever Illy’s artistic departures from hip hop, his live act remained very much street. There was a connection, both to the ground, and to the crowd that was palpable as the love in the air – Illy pumped it into the crowd and the crowd passed it back proudly.
It was 8pm on a Saturday night in and the atmosphere at Metropolis Fremantle was electric. It was a full house, and the crowd hoarded whatever stage proximity they’d won. The club music kept people moving on the wind-down from Paces but it was hard to dance in the thick atmosphere of anticipation. Illy’s set time came around and the music stopped—it was immediately replaced by eager cheering as the punter’s eyes flicked towards the stage.
“Freo make some noise!” was shouted and the entire club obliged. Illy, humble in a red jacket, white shirt and jeans donning his signature black cap, immediately crossed into the centre. A now manned keyboard, drum kit, and stand-alone mic were frozen behind him in a pre-free fall moment. Screens lit up behind him flashing lightning-fast static and a drum roll began.
Illy raised a single hand as the crowd mirrored him, then immediately launched into Forget It. Being an album tour he started with Track #1. As if made self-conscious by this bold play, Illy quickly lost the red jacket and passionately delivered the rest of his bars in vulnerability.
Performing a curious kind of magic on stage; one hand grasped his microphone tightly while the other was used to draw the crowd into his chest, it helped personalise a mass experience. With each hit of the chorus the audience reacted in waves, a trend that went down on repeat throughout the whole show.
There was a moment of silence before the unmistakable recorded “woah-oh” of Amity Affliction’s Ahren Stringer resumed the energy. Youngbloods was a notorious summer anthem and an obvious crowd favourite as the screaming graduated into an echo and every song was sung along to. Hazard to Myself came next and with it an infectious carefree-schoolboy vibe – Illy almost laughed off a few of his lines as he strutted the stage back and forth.
After a quick shout-out to his ensemble and a sincere thanks to the audience, Illy kicked back into the album with the traditionally hip-hop track Looks Could Kill. His 2010 hit Cigarettes got dangerously close to a slow song as the crowd swayed but fortunately no lighters were drawn.
Catch 22 and Extra Extra were pulled out as the venue starts to feel less like a club and more like an expertly DJ’d house party. The front lights coming on, Illy left the stage and for a moment the punters feared it was over as the crowd begged for an encore.
Wild applause got wilder as Illy stormed back on and made his point with a passionate Swear Jar – Illy wasn’t done showing his fans love and they loved it even more. The energy came back at peak level and Illy quickly rolled through a series of tunes like You Say When and Highway and finally ended the show with the long-awaited Papercuts, which played fantastically.
Pulling a standing ovation out of an already dancing, screaming crowd, the 90minute adrenalin rush of the Melbourne artist left an energy aftershock as the crowd got back into dancing, with grins on their faces as the night continued. Many punters left – having received what they came for.
Illy chose to start his Australia-wide tour with a bang, but if the ringing in my ears was anything to go by it won’t be ending with a fizzle.
Illy continues his Australia-wide tour as he crosses the Nullarbor this week to venues in Adelaide & the East Coast.