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If you’ve seen ‘Pale Kid Raps Fast’ on YouTube, you’ll know who Watsky is. If you have one of his several mixtapes, or his latest album Cardboard Castles, you’ll probably want to see him live. A brilliant writer, poet, rapper, entertainer, performer – with no real reason to do what he does other than to make his material heard.
Born and raised by YouTube and a solid 6-7 years of touring schools, universities and presentations over in the land of the free, George Watsky has garnered himself quite a following online. From viral videos to songs with Kate Nash, and everything in-between (including declining an offer to advertise a mobile phone for a quick profit), the last year or two has been really defining in this baby-faced 27-year olds life. On his third trip to the UK, and by far his biggest and best tour so far, he’s brought Californian rapper Wax along with him for the Hug a Hater Tour. I’m at Manchester Academy for this one, because I’m not going to Newcastle like an effing idiot.
Watsky is known for his pen-game and his utterly ridiculous delivery (or flow as you kids call it). His lightning fast way of spraying out words is berserk, and feels impossible, but when you hear it live, you know you’re dealing with a talented artist. His songs are really distinctive (even with Watsky himself calling them weird), but it’s hard to not sing along to his choruses or shout out key lyrics at him when he pauses for the crowd to fill in.
Wax kick-starts proceedings and I’ll admit two things now – I’d never heard any of Wax on record, and I didn’t even know I was coming to this gig until hours before. I don’t know what I’m expecting, but as soon as he enters the stage, any preconceptions I had are smashed. His weapon of choice? An incredible selection of tracks that work well live. From the brilliant acoustic track Jukebox, to the thoughtful tones of Limousine, to more raucous and upbeat tracks that get the
crowd roaring along. What makes Wax so great though, is his tread over any musical terrain. He played with a full band behind him, he played with a DJ behind him, he played with no-body behind him but his acoustic guitar – versatility really does take over for 45 minutes. It’s always great when a support/co-headliner is so good that you forget during their set that there’s more acts to follow, whether you’re there to see them or not.
After Wax set the standard, it’s up to Watsky to bring it home. Having already done a tour 5 months prior to support Cardboard Castles, his focus is on having a good time with the crowd he has, which fortunately, is a sweaty one that isn’t afraid to get rowdy. This is my first time seeing him, and it’s always weird when you see someone in the flesh who you only had connections with through an LCD screen and a YouTube channel. As an act, you can’t fault Watsky: his performance is on point, and his stage presence is second to none.
Tonight, he performs a mixture of new tracks from CC and famous tracks that have homes on mix-tapes and his YouTube. His flow and his song structure really make sense when you hear these songs live. Tiny Glowing Screens is a room filler that really captures the scale of the track on the album, and Hey Asshole is also as grabbing live as it is on record. Strong as an Oak sent the crowd mental to what is normally a standard volume song. The biggest sing-a-long of the night, however, was definitely 4am Monday. Just the feeling of singing along to an anthem that you’ve always held dear to you and gone back to time and time again, is really powerful. Watsky felt a room belt his tracks out at him, and at times, he seemed overwhelmed by the reception he was getting.
The night finishes and fans rush to meet both artists, which is yet another great reason to come see these guys: they really care about their fans. A great night at the Manchester Academy, two brilliant artists that are definitely going places – I’ll be going again when he comes back to the UK.
Coming soon on Sans Sheriff: A picture of will, with a little bio about himself, and his Twitter handle.