Concert Reviews

Die Antwoord at Rebel

Photos by Neil Van

Like many, I was first introduced to Die Antwoord in 2010 when the group attained a level of internet celebrity following the release of their music videos Zef Side and Enter the Ninja. A Coachella performance later that year cemented the band as rap-rave royalty and they have been moving from strength to strength ever since. In the 6 years following their rise to international fame, they have continued to remain both relevant and edgy, taking notice of the shift to EDM sounds in dance music, and incorporating this into their songs and performances.

Support for the night was by way of a female DJ duo Death Trap. The pair played a high energy set which was heavy on trap bangers from the past couple of years, but didn’t stray too far from the ordinary. One notable exception was a remix of the Sailor Moon theme song, which led to a enthusiastic crowd singalong. Towards the end of the performance Die Antwoord’s Yolandi came out on the stage to dance in an oversized hoodie, much to the enjoyment of the crowd.

Soon after Death Trap finished, the screens behind the stage flashed with the solemn face of Leon Botha, the South African visual artist and DJ who was featured heavily in Die Antwoord’s earlier videos before his untimely death in 2011. After a few minutes of anticipation, GOD (formally DJ Hi-Tek) took to the stage wearing a red hoodie and began playing a bass-heavy instrumental mix designed to get the crowd moving. The last time I saw Die Antwoord (at 2015’s Time Festival), GOD played for around 10 minutes before Ninja and Yolandi joined him on the stage. This time around they reduced his solo performance somewhat, as Ninja soon joined the stage, standing in front of the decks and glaring out into the audience.

From this moment forward, nothing about the performance was understated. The over-the-top visuals and light display, ample costume changes and pure ferocity of the sound fit perfectly with the exaggerated characters of Ninja and Yolandi. The duo have among the best on-stage chemistry of any act I have seen. It is captivating to watch them interact and they manage to perpetuate the hard-edge personas which their fans adore, while remaining relatable.

Possibly due to their unusual aesthetic, internet notoriety and varied sound, Die Antwoord have obtained quite a diverse fanbase, with many fans who identify more strongly with rock rather than electronic sounds. This led to an interesting crowd dynamic, with half the audience going crazy for the Die Antwoord’s rave aesthetic, while many stood still or head bopped. I also heard grumbles that GOD had been playing ‘other people’s music’ in between the Die Antwoord performances, something I personally enjoyed. At one point he masterfully mixed RL Grime’s Scylla into The Prodigy’s No Good, which did a great job at charging the crowd up for the next Die Antwoord track.

Ninja and Yolandi took the time between each block of songs to change costumes, keeping the performances fresh and adding an extra level of the unusual to each song. The outfits were often banana-obsessed, with Yolandi’s early banana-adorned hoodie matched with a banana toque Ninja later put on. The double-high wraparound screen behind the stage also flashed with Bananas from time to time, alongside the typical art style displayed in many of the Die Antwoord music video’s and their movie Chappie.

The songs were a good mix of old and new, with some of the older songs such as Enter the Ninja altered to have more to a trap sound, matching the bands updated aesthetic. Some newer songs, such as this year’s Daddy didn’t resonate too well in the room, but the band’s full-on energy and sexually charged performance and managed to carry it.

Interestingly, I found it was Ninja who was more sexualised than Yolandi over the course of the night. A highlight came when he picked up a bra from the stage and placed it over part of the screen. Moments later it had been joined by many more female undergarments, which were draped across his body as he began to sing Raging Zef Boner (NSFW) acapella. The crowd was given many hands-on moments with the rapper as he repeatedly threw himself from the stage to crowd-surf, culminating in one of the best finales I can remember as he knelt arms-stretched above the crowd to sing Enter the Ninja.

If I have one criticism of the show, it’s that at around an hour, it was over all too quickly; but given the energy the group gave us for that hour, I’ll let it slide. Since I first saw them alongside Aphex Twin in 2012, Ninja and Yolandi have never failed to put on a stellar performance and shake up my conceptions of what a live show can be. Thankfully, the rumours circulating earlier this year that Die Antwoord were splitting up were unfounded, so we can look forward to seeing what new directions they take their project in years to come.