Uzi's raucous crowd brought the energy to a level Uzi couldn't match at Republic on Wednesday.
Lil Uzi Vert is a self-proclaimed rock star. He cites Marilyn Manson as a major influence, promotes moshing at his concerts, and flirts with androgyny in ways that Manson, Prince, and Patti Smith did before him. Uzi makes aggressively clear that he is inspired first and foremost by rock, but before seeing Uzi at Republic on Wednesday night, I considered these comparisons shallow. Sure, he appreciates rock and its aura--partying in hotel rooms and doing what he wants after rambunctiously bouncing around stage in front of a packed crowd screaming your songs--but is that all it take to be considered a rock star?
That doubt slid away the second Uzi pounced on stage. What was once an unassuming, relatively chill gathering instantly switched into a testosterone-driven mob, iPhones raised like shields as they charged the stage. It took approximately one song and five snapchats before the majority of the women in the center of the floor fled the looming mosh pit. At a modest 5 foot 2, I had no control over my body. I consider myself a relatively experienced mosher, but nothing prepared me for Lil Uzi’s fans. In a sold out concert, the space was already claustrophobic. “Where’s the mosh pit at?!” Uzi yelled at one point in the show. “The whole venue's a mosh pit!” I responded internally. If someone leaned to the right, we toppled like dominos with them.
The audience was the show. I could barely hear or see Uzi through the raucous sea of fans belting every lyric while thrashing their elbows and banging their heads. While playing “Woke Up Like This” Uzi jumped onto the rafters and hung from the balcony in true “Republic rap show” fashion. This was one of the few times I could clearly see all of Uzi. The crowd went wild, and he jumped down into the massive clump in an attempt to surf it. Unfortunately, the space was too tight, and few could raise their arms to catch him, causing the audience to tip over in a ripple.
While crouched beneath Uzi’s drenched T-shirt, it occurred to me that these performing tactics are robotically typical for Uzi. He’s a performer and good one at that, but the crowd was bringing more energy than he was. During “Too Much Sauce,” Uzi took his phone out and took a snapchat along with the audience. Predictably, this excited the audience and helped to hype it even more. It was a cheap trick, but as an experienced performer, Uzi knows what will make a good show and goes through those motions. But his heart didn't seem to be into it. After performing one verse of “Do What I Want,” Uzi said “I’m sick of this song,” with a flat affect. Stardom can be isolating and it appeared that it has taken a toll on Uzi. The videos of Uzi interacting with his audience from merely a year ago show that there's is more distance now, as if to say that because the audience was rife with longterm fans, Uzi didn’t trust it. He felt alone, and the show was part of the job.
When Uzi isn’t talking about making money, he knowingly or not, is able to aptly describe the aimless, depressing culture of angsty drug-fueled millennials. Where taking a “xanny” to “numb the pain now” causes all you friends to be, for all intents and purposes, dead. Through poppy trap beats, Uzi is dark. Using his voice as an instrument, Uzi floats above the snap of a poppy synthesizer. Repetitive and hollow, Uzi lays empty sadness over exuberance like a reversed silver lining.
His music is unique for its genre in its darkness, but the only reason that aspect of his sound showed through during the performance was because of Uzi’s apparent distance. The juxtaposition between happy and sad evident in Uzi’s music was reflected during the show between the audience and the performer.
Leaving the show, I felt like I had just walked out of a swimming pool. The crowd that accumulated outside Republic looked more like the finish line of a marathon than the aftermath of a rap concert. Although there seemed to be something off with Uzi based on his reputation for wild shows and videos online of him performing, the audience fueled the show and it was difficult not to have a good time. Limp with bruises and dripping in sweat, the audience meandered away from the venue pleasantly worn.
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