You know those artists who make you feel really lazy as a creative? Steve Lacy's probably the epitome of this archetype. Even before the release of his full-length solo debut Apollo XXI on his 21st birthday last year, Lacy's resume already looked like a career bucket list for most: he'd already made two records with his band The Internet, worked on tracks for Vampire Weekend, J Cole, Solange, Mac Miller, Blood Orange and Tyler, The Creator, and perhaps most impressively, contributed a beat he created on his iPhone to Kendrick Lamar's Grammy Award winning epic DAMN. If he's not the most prolific 21 year old of our time, I have no idea who is.
As a line of teenagers snaked their way down a slippery Swanston Street waiting to pack into the venue, it dawned on me that the great thing about Lacy's status as a young over-achiever seems to be that other young people are drawn to him. Whether fascinated by his work ethic, enamored in his Prince-like musical virtuosity or maybe even simply adoring of his irresistible charm and flamboyant image (once again, very Prince-like), the kids swarmed in their masses for Lacy's Valentine's Day show, and it made for one hell of a gig.
Following a warm-up set from his touring DJ Bapari, Lacy took to the stage and wasted no time in diving straight into his set, which literally comprised of the entirety of Apollo XXI in its sequential order. Albeit predictable, there's something special about seeing an artist deliver a body of work in the same order you would whilst at home with headphones on, and Lacy well and truly delivered. Kicking things off with 'Only If' and his 'coming-out' track 'Like Me', the young artist's exuberant stage presence well and truly made up for the fact that he lacked a backing band, delivering some A-Grade banter between verses. The man literally bought himself a damn Valentine's Day gift and had it delivered onstage without missing a beat - what a don.
After flexing his bass chops to the tune of 'Playground', 'Basement Jack' and 'Guide', Lacy donned a Stratocaster and treated the crowd to Apollo XXI's more sultry moments with 'Lay Me Down' and 'Hate CD', delivering a blistering guitar solo in the former track to the shouts of many a 'woo' and 'YES BRUTHA' from below. 'In Lust We Trust' and 'Love 2 Fast' also featured similar fretboard antics, and at one point Lacy even jumped onto a Moog Sub 37 to create a woozy wall of synths to ride out to, departing stage shortly thereafter for a costume change.
Upon returning to stage in a purple Versace shirt and flowing white overalls (described as his 'Valentine's Drip'), Lacy concluded the Apollo XXI portion of his set with album highlight 'N Side' and 'Outro Freestyle/4ever', before delivering an a-capella rendition of early SoundCloud breakout 'C U Girl', triggering a pretty saucy singalong from the crowd. Whether there truly was love in the air or it was just the steamy, stale air from the humid venue playing tricks on me, it made for one hell of a special moment nonetheless.
Lacy concluded his show with the Holy Trinity of cuts from his 2017 EP Steve Lacy's Demo: 'Ryd', 'Some' and 'Dark Red'; however, was dragged back onstage from the raucous sound of the crowd from below - and trust me, it was fucking loud. At this point, it was clear that Lacy was near-depleted of songs; an attempt to play another loose SoundCloud track fell apart as the chords slipped his memory, resulting in him getting a runner to rush his iPhone to the mixing desk to test out a new demo he'd been working on. You could have blindfolded me and I would have said it was a Playboi Carti track blaring over the sound system: as raw as it was, the crowd lost their collective shit to that demo. I guess that's the magic of Steve Lacy's sound in a nutshell, isn't it?