Azealia Banks review, KOKO, London: Rapper’s Aer Lingus controversy is forgotten as she rattles through a flawless set

No one throws any baked potatoes at Azealia Banks during her show at KOKO in London. Either there are no Irish people in the crowd (aside from me) who saw her Instagram post inviting them to do so, or fans have forgiven her for a post-Aer Lingus flight rant where she called staff “inbred leprechauns” (she later apologised and pronounced herself “Queen of Ireland”).

Any person who has paid even the slightest attention to Banks over the past few years will know that this incident was not out of the ordinary. The rapper and singer has pursued public feuds with everyone from Zayn Malik to Grimes and Lana Del Ray with gleeful gusto. Banks is not the clean-living, always-smiling, always-polite pop star the world has become accustomed to. She is loud, brash, rude, funny, outrageous, troublesome and phenomenally talented.

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Dressed in white silk shorts, cream leather boots and a billowing shirt cinched in with a corset, she emulates Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Mask of Zorro as she rattles through her small catalogue of tracks at breakneck speed, beaming like a child at her own birthday party.  

She may only have one full album to her name (a second, long-awaited record is due later this year), but she certainly makes the most of it. On tracks like “Anna Wintour” and “The Big Big Beat”, she evokes the southern California hip hop of the Nineties – think Heavy D’s “Now That We Found Love” ­– then pivots to sharp, cold bars over the bright synth chimes of “Ice Princess”.  

Banks sings as well as any classic soul star, and could rap circles around many artists who are given bigger and better stages. Her interaction with the crowd is superb: she eyeballs them with bravado on “Count Contessa” then takes the time to make sure a fan gets one of the gloves she’s been handing out during the set.

When she reaches her biggest hit to date, the European rave-inspired “212”, you wonder if the ceiling is going to cave in. As a person, Banks clearly isn’t perfect. On stage, however, she is flawless.

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