Concert Review: Waka Flocka Flame at Livewire | Phoenix New Times

Concert Review

Waka Flocka Flame Heated Up Beautiful Old Town People at Livewire

Waka Flocka Flame was among peers at Livewire last night.
Share this:

“I’ve only seen half an ugly person in here!”

Waka Flocka Flame shouts this as he climbs back up on the Livewire stage. He had just been performing in the crowd, roving around both levels of the venue. Presumably he would have spotted the half-an-ugly during his three-song trek through the throng of twerkers and party-goers. What constitutes half an ugly person by Flockaveli standards remains a mystery. Maybe he spotted Two-Face in the audience, or came across a bewitching Scottsdale socialite with a shrunken twin head on her shoulder? For a paranoid moment I wonder if he’s talking about me.

The rapper's jacket looked like the kind of thing you’d wear while blasting My Chemical Romance at the food court.

tweet this
I certainly feel like the ugliest person in Old Town Scottsdale right now. Livewire is packed with a crowd of people that look like they were pulled straight out of a plastic surgeon’s highlight reel. Massive gotta-be-athletes cavorted alongside women who probably write “Instagram model” on their tax returns. Everyone in the crowd looked coiffed, dressed to impress, and judging by the way they were dancing, most certainly DTF. As for me, I looked every inch the schlubby 34-year-old blogger that I was. I had gotten to Livewire an hour before the show, after attending a family dinner where I ate two plates of pasta and drank enough red wine that I walked through a closed screen door. I felt gross and was pretty sure I looked even grosser. Wearing a worn hoodie and jeans straight off the Walmart rack, I felt like the “PRESS” bracelet around my wrist was the only thing keeping me from being scooped up by a frosted-tips busboy and chucked into an alleyway dumpster.

I had never been to Livewire before. I was struck most by the sight of the huge eagle sculpture looming over the stage with guitars and speaker heads embedded in its wings. The bartenders wore “sexy reindeer” costumes and the security guards looked big enough to shoulder-check ogres. Most impressive of all was the near-deafening sound system, a wobbly-bass Death Star that vaporized our ear drums. 
The sound system was so loud that it turned the house DJ’s opening set into an unintentional comedic piece. In between playing radio jams, the DJ kept asking the crowd to make some noise for Flocka. It was impossible to tell if the crowd was making ANY kind of noise over the war machine’s relentless boom-bap. The frustrated DJ kept asking the crowd to make more noise to show Flocka “how AZ do,” but he couldn’t hear the crowd’s enthusiasm over Flo Rida shouting about boots with the fur. It was like someone took the “I can’t hear you” deaf school pep rally from Family Guy and turned it into a half-hour DJ set.

A nameless hype man took the stage before Waka to wind up the crowd with his own painfully generic songs about “fucking bitches while pouring tequila all over 'em.” He did say his name twice during the set, but it was drowned out by the Death Star bass drops. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long after the hype man’s mini-set for Waka Flocka Flame to hit the stage. Waka came on wearing a long black coat covered with zippers and patches. It looked like the kind of thing you’d wear while blasting My Chemical Romance at the food court. He was tall, rocking long locks of hair that he would whip and head bang with abandon throughout his set. The difference between Waka and tequila sex guy couldn’t be more pronounced: Waka gleefully bounded across the stage like he owned it, barking his own name out like it was an incantation to the god of partying. No loud system could compete with the Flame burning on the mic.

Shouting out Goku on “Wild Boy,” Waka looked like he was about to go Super Saiyan himself at any moment. Flailing and energetic, he hurled bottles of water into the crowd. He grabbed an audience member’s cell phone and took a selfie with it, tossing it back to the fan who clutched it to his chest like it was a holy relic. Waka doled out high fives between verses, clearly having a ball. At one point he even started whipping his hair onto a mammoth security guard’s head, grinning like a Muppet; The scowling guard took Waka’s hair whips with grim resignation.

Waka played hit after hit. Probably the biggest revelation of the night was that he has so MANY hits. If you’ve listened to rap radio at all over the last five years, 80 percent of his set would have been instantly recognizable. “No Hands,” “Hard In The Paint,” “Round of Applause,” “Workin’,” “O Let’s Do It.” Waka didn’t waste time with deep cuts or B-sides. People at the front of the stage kept losing their cell phones while trying to snap photos of Flocka, their next-gen smartphones shattering into pieces in puddles of cheap domestic beer. A pair of girls kept trying to get past security onto the stage by using some magic that’s older than the Jedi Mind Trick: The Old Look-At-My-Preposterous-Cleavage. And while the ladies in question would make Russ Meyers’ knees shake, the security guards were unmoved. 
The stage was full of people standing behind Waka, filming him and nodding their heads as DJ Whoo Kid blasted out the beats. Whether they were his entourage or Livewire employees or Make-A-Wish Foundation kids all grown up, I have no idea. But they all seemed to be competing to see who could look more bored and coolly impassive. Perhaps that was why Waka was so happy and energized onstage: He had already sucked all the joy out of his posse.

Towards the end of his set, he walked offstage and entered the audience. Security quickly lost sight of him. They stood on top of leather sofas to get a bead on him, shifting their weight so they wouldn’t sink into the cushions. The crowd went wild as he got back onstage to finish his set with a few more quick bangers before checking out for the afterparty. There was no encore.

Sweaty and disheveled from getting into the music, I looked even worse than I did when I arrived at Livewire. If I was Waka’s half-an-ugly, I probably had successfully transitioned into full-on-ugly by the end of the night. All around me the ludicrously beautiful people of Old Town Scottsdale emptied out into the streets, in pursuit of afterparties and Ubers and desperate last-call lovers.

It’s easy to bag on the bros and babes of Old Town: I’ve done it for years. But watching them all stumble and shimmy away, I realized that they all looked like they were having way more fun than I was. They certainly looked more alive than the people I see at '80s dance nights in downtown, who need to drink half their weight in Kiltlifters before they can halfheartedly dance to Depeche Mode. These were Waka’s people, his chosen Flocka. Maybe I could be one of them, too, if I laid off the pasta.
Critic's Notebook

Last Night:
Waka Flocka Flame at Livewire in Old Town Scottsdale

The Crowd: Reality show hopefuls, playboys living paycheck-to-paycheck, porno yoga instructors, and a gigantic man that looked like Oddjob with The Weeknd's old hairstyle.

Overheard: "They should have a Waka Waka Flame T-shirt with Fozzie Bear on it." If you were a woman, stranger, I'd propose to you on the spot for saying that.

Random Notebook Dump: "My Auto Correct is killing it tonight. 'Bard On The Paint' should totally be a rap song, and "soggy style table dancing" sounds like something that happens at pirate saloons when it gets really LIT."
KEEP NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls. Make a one-time donation today for as little as $1.