US rappers Watsky and Wax joined forces on Wednesday night for the Hug A Hater Tour tour at Belfast's Limelight. They did not disappoint.
George Watsky and Wax aka Michael Jones don't fit the typical rapper mould. There's no bling on show, no 'gangsta' style' attitude and no arrogance. Just two guys delivering passionate, often witty and sometimes complex lyrics with the help of their live band.
Watsky is a slam poet giving wry observations on life at a supersonic pace. Wax, who went viral with a video (Rosana) that registered 27m YouTube hits, is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. In short they are two talented artists having fun. It is clear from the start that they want this Belfast crowd to be part of it.
Wax gets the party started by telling crowd he's come all the way from Los Angeles for this intimate performance. It is a subtle hint to those gathered that he wants their help to make this gig worth the air miles. The small but enthusiastic crowd don't need any encouragement. To Wax's surprise it is obvious he has quite a few fans in Northern Ireland when they start singing along word-for-word.
There is an infectious energy in his lyrics that lifts the room. Soon he is flirting with the audience dishing out fist-bumps, high-fives and handshakes. He doesn't stop there - before long he is in the crowd. Bopping around, hugging those around him and offering the mic up to random fans who do themselves proud by filling in during the chorus.
Wax finishes his set with his YouTube phenomenon Rosana (video not-safe-for-work). Chants of 'boom, boom, ay' from the hook are deafening as fans then roar out the catchy but saucy lyrics of the chorus.
Watsky is next up delivering his own blend of sometimes humorous, sometimes serious lyrics. His fast rapping is astounding and it soon becomes obvious why he has won US and international acclaim, as well as awards, for his slam poetry skills. Watksy is full of energy - pacing around the stage. At times it seems like he about to pounce into the crowd below for a bout of crowd surfing.
Wax soon rejoins the stage for a duet with his buddy followed by a rap battle. It is tricky to determine who has won this one but Wax may have just got the better of his pal.
At times it is difficult to work out who is having more fun - the guys from LA or the now ecstatic fans waving their hands at the front of the stage as the eclectic mix of tunes blast out accompanied by possibly some of the finest rapping Belfast has heard.
What did this gig have to offer? It would be easier to list what it didn't have. There's the phenomenal rapping, Watsky's slam poetry, the amazing guitar and drum solos from the band, a Wax solo set with an acoustic guitar, the hilarious Wax v Watsky rap battle, jokes and banter aplenty from both artists and constant interaction with the crowd. Not bad for the £14 ticket price.
There are many who claim to have been at Oasis' debut performance in Belfast in 1994 at the Limelight. At the time they were a little known-band from Manchester. That show is still one of the most-talked about gigs in Belfast — every music fan over the age of 30 claims to have been at it, despite it only holding 500 people at the time.
This was another truly memorable gig for the venue. Perhaps in the not too distant future there will be just as many claiming that they were part of the Watsky and Wax experience in Belfast.
This pair deserve to be hugely successful - not merely because of their obvious talents but because they also seem to be likeable and down-to-earth guys. No divas here. Both spend time with fans after the show - signing tickets and posing for photographs. They are in no hurry to leave.
For now they just seem to be lapping up fun and those lucky enough to have been there know they have witnessed something special.
- Gary Fennelly
Video: Wax performs Rosana (Warning: Strong language)