Yelawolf – Logan Campbell Centre December 14, 2017

This was a night for full sleeve tattoos and the singlets to show them, a night for short shorts, jorts and active wear, coupled with a lake of Catfish Billy merch, all enveloping a slathering horde of dudebros and their female equivalent.

This was  something new for me, not least because the last time I’d subjected myself to the genre “rap-rock”, it was the 1990’s and the ‘artists’ wore red baseball caps, massive shorts with dog chains hanging off the back, DC kicks with no laces, and sported greased-up clit-ticklers on their weak chins. It seems LaBretts and other assorted facial piercings are no longer a staple of the genre though, which made things much easier for the security staff, who were very nice. My friend and I were a little disconcerted at how readily they dismissed the need for us to show any I.D. though. We were prepped to flash our driver licences but we received a good-natured grimace that suggested the only fraud we might commit would be to acquire a Gold Card for an early ride home.

My God, the noise. Walking into the Logan Campbell Centre last night felt like what Cross Fit might be like if you were allowed to drink and smoke, which actually sounds pretty cool. I mean, I’d consider doing that. But not if it meant listening to this. Imagine being stuck in a Subaru Legacy on a hot Auckland day, and the windows and air-con won’t work, and somehow the radio is stuck on Mai FM at an extremely uncomfortable volume, and the five people at the back of the car keep whistling loudly as they wrestle their work-a-day frustrations.

The only breeze you feel is created by the sub-woofer, which isn’t cool, but carries its own intense heat that causes your belly button to sweat. The two-piece DJ act that opened this portal to Hell seemed to exert an awful lot of energy doing not much of anything expect play top 40 fodder to the horde, ‘remixing’ here and there with the aid of a digital turntable and some samples triggered with drumsticks.

Watching them, I was reminded of the Mighty Boosh – especially Vince Noir – and beginning to suspect they’d at least raided his wardrobe: or Noel Feilding had vomited denim, sequins and florescent paint over them before they got on stage. Their display of enthusiasm for other peoples’ work, dressed in leather motorcycle jackets and stovepipe jeans, each tasselled and be-dazzled to within an inch of their lives, struck me as painfully redundant, and vaguely embarrassing, but I am also 100% confident that I am not the target audience, and that I don’t know what I’m talking about, and that this is the shit, man!

Seriously though, the joke, if that’s what this was, stopped being funny when this morning-radio breakfast show of an opening act started fucking with Muddy Waters in their set. I know they’re paying some well-intentioned homage to the South, and the South has something called ‘Blues’ in it, and therefore this ‘track’ should fit, but they made me want to kill myself. I went out for a cigarette, while the heavily moistened horde shouted YEEAAAH! and danced to an insult.

Michael Atha, aka Yelawolf, took to the stage for the first time since 2015, to a roar. An uproarious roar: a fist pumping, vein straining roar that shook only less violently than the woofer. Young Mike is an assured and confident artist, performer, and lyricist, (that last I have on good authority, as I couldn’t understand a word that was being said/sprayed. I must give huge props to my date last night, C_, who as a massive Yelawolf fan was able to fill in the many blind spots on my Yela-dar). Yela has the audience in the palm of his hands the entire night, never letting go and, despite touring a new record, giving them everything they know and love already. The music ranged from Kid-Rock rock without the love for the Orange Ape (“Fuck you Donald Trump!” That always gets the crowd on board), to banjo driven Gabba hard house, or so it seemed. He smashed through tracks Empty Bottles, Devil In My Veins, and Tennesse Love (from Love Story), regaling us with stories of addiction and general Appalachian woebegone-ness, spat out like those old TV advertisements for Micro Machines.

This is why Dre and Mr. Mathers took him onboard, I presume. Creek Water and Pop The Trunk (from Yelawolf Trunk Music), Cat Fish Billy off his first record, Best Friend, and Let’s Roll (from Radio Active) just poured out over the swarming, seething mass of millennial flesh. The crowd was ecstatic, Yelawolf was in his element and the band was, I’m guessing because of the Campbell Centre’s notorious ‘unique’ sound quality, in fine form. Punk (from new album Trial By Fire) was saved for the encore, which is considerate: Yela was giving his fans everything they knew first, and hitting them with the new stuff while they staggered from the familiar blows of thundering, bass-heavy…something. Good call. My date for the night was certainly thrilled to bits with what she saw, and as she is a massive fan, I can say with high confidence that Yelawolf delivered a show that will be remembered for some time. Probably not by me, but that’s ok.

Thom Rutten

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