Where: New York City, New York
Venue: Irving Plaza in Manhattan
On: 9:59 p.m. Off: 11:01 p.m. a.m.
Crowd: Ready and willing to perform the interludes if need be.
Industry Presence: Peter Rosenberg, hanging out with Alchemist and Party Supplies; Statik Selektah; Elliott Wilson, giving out hugs; Emile Haynie; a lot of writers—from Vice, XXL, and elsewhere—standing far back from the crowd
Overheard: "Bronson! Bronson! Bronson!" throughout Party Supplies' opening set. Later, Action would say, "Show some respect! This man is the reason you like this shit!"
Spotted: A bunch of Newport boxes and crushed Stella Artois cans on the ground. Two guys wearing identical lumberjack button-ups, talking to one another. A kid screaming, "I got to touch Action Bronson's beard!"
Basically: A wrestling match without the ring.
Last night at Irving Plaza, Action Bronson, wearing a white t-shirt somehow bigger than himself, was dressed like a ghost or a bed. But beds usually don’t rap or move like Action Bronson, a giant of 5’7 who made his way through the entire crowd and touched the back wall of the room, an act—if not like Moses parting the seas—like a bulldozer thrown into the ocean. For minutes, he couldn’t be found. He’d just up and disappeared in a room full of witnesses in Carmelo Anthony jerseys. The DJ looped the opening marimbas of “It’s Me” until he couldn’t anymore. And then, there he was again, Action, back onstage, tossing handfulls of condoms into the audience—having already thrown G-Pens at the rafters like stones across a pond.
His live-shows exist as stories of legend, with slug-lines that sound like Friends episodes: The one where he passed out weed in front of the cops; The one where he performed with a handicapped kid draped across his back; The one where he bodyslammed an eager fan; The one where Chandler crosses the line. They’re all available on YouTube, where you sit at your computer and wish you were closer to the—cough—action. And that doesn’t even count the unbelievably enjoyable video, last year, which could be called “The one where he surprises a British nursing home to the delight of everyone everywhere.”
"My mother, the woman who created me, is seeing me perform for the first time. I love you,” said Action. “If you didn't f**k my father I wouldn't be here."
Touring off of Blue Chips 2—his latest adventure through drugs, samples and kitsch with Party Supplies—the setlist was in sequence. He doesn’t play the old stuff: you want his old shit, see his old tours. And so it went: track 1, track 2, track 3, track 7 with Meyhem Lauren; 8, with Ab-Soul; Retchy P did his verse. Big Body Bes wasn’t there, though people screamed his name often. The kid next to me kept complaining to his girlfriend throughout the show about how he didn’t want Mac Miller to show up, to the point that it was quite clear: this kid loved Mac Miller.
“She said I look like David Justice when she see me floating in the Maxima,” Action screamed through his nose, capping it with an exasperated and triumphant, “It’s me!”
He took a moment to breathe, then said, "This is a big night. My mother, the woman who created me, is seeing me perform for the first time. The first time! I love you.” Action blew her a kiss, his hand swinging at his face like a stick at a piñata. He continued: “If you didn't fuck my father, I wouldn't be here." (He’d later pop up next to her on the balcony, rapping “Flip out the roof, land in a split” and “Diana Ross, blow my nostrils with the tan cloth” with his mom swept under his wing. Her little hand sorta pinched his big wrist. She couldn’t have looked more proud.)
“The Don's Cheek”
“It Concerns Me”
“Jackson & Travolta” (with Meyhem Lauren)
“Through the Eyes of a G” (with Ab-Soul)
“Man & The Mirror”
“Flip Ya” (with Retchy P)
“Amadu Diallo” (with Party Supplies)
“In the City”
“I Adore You”
“Strictly 4 My Jeepz”
When he performs, he tilts his head back in self-satisfaction, his face the one made after a particularly good meal or orgasm. He spreads his arms wide, basking, tanning under the stage lights. He acts out what he can, tugging his ear for “Sinbad with the earring,” patting his stomach for “spacious.” Owwwwwwooooooo, he howls like a wolf; eh-heh, eh-heh, he coughs "like a midget" (or at least like Derek Zoolander). He rubs his head: “I look gorgeous, b. I got my hair cut for this.” Then he pours an entire bottle of water on himself, ruining class picture day…or perhaps making it.
While Action’s the face of the operation, Party Supplies is the Karl Rove-level evil genius, moving set pieces and having the mixtape all feel like it’s part of the same movie: there’s a song where he rolls on Tracy Chapman; one that references “Tequila;” another that sounds like “Goodfellas” with the doo-wop. All he needs is a jazzy clarinet and he could rap over an entire Woody Allen film.
Last night, in the midst of all the “velour/conquistador” rhymes, he sang along with the Phil Collins oldies, “Su-su-sudio!” and “Another Day in Paradise.” If he’d invited anyone to go to the karaoke bar with him, two blocks away, everyone would’ve gone. But alas, he got to the end of the song—“Contemporary Man”—and announced, “That was the performance of my life right now.”