Review and photos – Die Antwoord at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, May 22 2014
– review by Ria Nevada/photos by Kirk Chantraine
Everything in moderate extremes – that seems to be rap-core trio Die Antwoord’s answer to all questions concerning their art.
When they rolled into Vancouver in 2010, our reviewer Elecia Chrunik praised the South African newcomers for the “spectacle of epic proportions” that they delivered. At the time, they had just exploded on the international music scene with their 2009 debut release $O$ – a shocking and remarkable revelation in the midst of modern rap and rave music. Their trademark histrionics have only intensified with time; Thursday night’s return performance at the Commodore Ballroom was as harsh, obscene, overwhelming and incredible as you could imagine.
Before rappers Ninja and Yolandi Visser made their appearances, a montage of distressed, disfigured faces were projected onto the stage’s backdrop, paired with inhumane wails and stock horror music. If Die Antwood’s mission was to instill fear into the hearts of the crowd members, they succeeded. DJ Hi-Tek’s entrance didn’t break the tension, either – rather, he shifted the mood of terror into one of aggression by blasting “DJ Hi-Tek Rulez”, a track where he repetitively warns detractors “I would fuck you ’til you love me”.
As soon as the last heavy bass beat of the track dropped, two distinct figures in matching oversized red sweatsuits entered from the wings of the stage. Ninja and Visser revealed themselves by brushing back their hoods, and the crowd absolutely lost their minds as they blasted through “Fok Julle Naaiers”. Visser sent shivers down spines with her squeaky, cartoonish voice and hostile lyrics – an extremely jarring contrast. Similarly, every word that came out of Ninja’s mouth dripped with rage and disgust.
It was difficult to not feel at least slightly scandalized by the often violent, crass and absurd sentiments of their music. Even with an iron stomach, their newest video for “Pitbull Terrier” (from their third full-length, Donker Mag, scheduled for a June 3 release) is difficult to digest; it features Ninja as a dog-man with creatures being bitten into, spewing blood everywhere.
But Die Antwoord are the poster children for the Zef counter-culture movement in South Africa, owning their “lowbrow” status and exaggerating it to unparalleled heights. So when Visser gloats about money and status in a gold tracksuit on “Rich Bitch”, the obvious materialism can be seen as the surface for a whole other class and political battle they delve into. Die Antwoord remains one of the most provocative and unique acts in music, but definitely not suited for the faint of heart.
More Die Antwoord at the Commodore Ballroom photos: