02 Academy Islington, London, Saturday, March 30
Outside the Academy there’s a queue of people listening to a leaked version of Tyler, The Creator’s third album ‘Wolf’ on their phones.
On it is the man they know best as @fucktyler confronting the absence of his father and his new-found fame, and sounding a lot like he’s grown up a bit. At no point on the record is there a joke about raping anyone, which is a strange sign of progress, but a clear step forward for the Odd Future leader.
A few hours later, the 22-year-old sprints onstage to the sounds of album opener ‘Wolf’ and immediately rips through ‘French!’ from his 2010 debut ‘Bastard’ as the whole room bounces along. As the hysteria fades he apologises for wanting to play loads of previously unheard material. But new album cuts like the sleek and smooth, Neptunes-inspired ‘Jamba’ and ‘Bimmer’ and recent single ‘Domo 23’ are welcomed like a beer bong at a frat house. The latter, a light-hearted party track that takes aim at David Beckham and One Direction, sees Tyler rap so fast he has to have a puff on his inhaler to recover.
It’s always strange seeing him in real life, if only to be reminded that he’s not just an offensive character invented by some kids dicking about on the internet. The rapper/producer/director is as well known for being controversial as he is for his music, and his live shows are as anarchic as anything punk or hardcore could ever throw at you. Even sedate new track ‘IFHY’ is met with a ridiculously enthusiastic moshpit in the nearly all-male crowd. It’s gloriously inappropriate.
Tyler’s connection with his fans is undeniable, and his stage patter is always met with rowdy cheers. Nothing is greeted as loudly as nihilistic anthem ‘Yonkers’ though. Still his finest moment, he drops it just before ‘Sandwitches’ ends the night in suitably hedonistic style.
He may never escape the fact that he made his name employing shock tactics, but tonight’s show hints that stepping out from behind the shadow of controversy might be possible.