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Azealia Banks Slays at Pre-Opening Concert for The Shed In NYC

Azealia Banks
Isa Terli/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Azealia Banks performs on Sept. 15, 2017.

At this point, she may be better known for her controversial opinions than her music, but when Azealia Banks takes the stage, she more than lives up to the name Slay-Z. Performing just ahead of a downpour in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards on Thursday (May 10) night at The Prelude to The Shed (a temporary performance space that serves to preview an innovative new venue, The Shed, which will open in 2019), Azealia Banks busted out live-band versions of songs from her six-year career, from the Big Bang of her debut single “212” to the recent triumph of her ‘90s club-inflected “Anna Wintour.”

The venue, an open-air space nestled within the skyscrapers of the Far West Side, pulls off the rare trick of feeling outdoors-y and urban at the same time -- not unlike the nearby High Line Park (when the actual building is completed, it will be a mutable space that physically expands to allow for outdoor shows). That’s a perfect fit for Banks, a Harlem native whose brash, iconoclastic approach to the studio and social media is New York City through and through. But as a live performer, Banks didn’t come to fight -- she was all smiles, dancing, rapping and singing with a sense of joy and comfort, clearly feeding off the fervent crowd bopping along to her mixture of house and hip-hop.

She also took a few moments to show off her considerably soulful singing skills -- too often overlooked is the fact that she can sail along a buttery vocal run with the greatest of ease before seamlessly segueing into a hard-hitting verse. Prior to “The Big Big Beat” she delivered its cooing, sultry chorus a cappella, and she nodded to her genre-defying tastes with an a cappella run-through of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies.”

But unlike most artists who perform the Berlin songbook on stage, Banks closed the night screaming the chorus of “Yung Rapunxel” into a megaphone aimed at her microphone. It’s been four years since that song’s parent album, her debut, dropped, and it’s high time for the sequel. Fantasea II: The Second Wave is slated for a 2018 release, and based upon the flair, energy and attitude she brought to the stage Thursday night, Azealia the Artist is ready to take the mic back from Azealia the Provocateur.

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