In 2019, Post Malone remains gargantuan. Last year, Malone was second on Spotify’s most listened to artists, and had two tracks appear in the Top 5 most streamed songs on the platform. His online presence is fairly subdued for an artist with this kind of stature, which appears to be the absolute antithesis of his live show; a bombastic and abrasive exercise in ripping apart ones narcissism and isolation, whilst relishing in it.
Post Malone found success in SoundCloud, a platform which eventually birthed its own sub-genre. His journey has been attempted to be mimicked by record label after label; poaching aspiring rappers to transcend their bedroom dreams into worldwide domination, but none have truly succeeded in emulating the perplexing yet sincerely special way Malone’s journey has unfolded. Post Malone’s music isn’t restrictive to hip-hop, it isn’t exclusively trap; it’s a enigmatic formula of the two, with a dashes of pop and country somehow finding themselves in the midst.
Set within the soulless and giant Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, as his cubic light installation rises above the stage, Malone is telling the audience he finally has the means to transform his heartbreak into histrionics. He’s adorned in a custom matching shirt and pants, the words Sydney scrawled across his chest, with diamanté’s and tarantulas accompanying the city’s shoutout. The moment his silhouette is finally projected onto the twin screens, his presence is thunderous. Opener Too Young tackles the dichotomy of mortality and luxury, and he introduces us to the theme of the show; this is going to be about Post and only Post. He has no band-members, no DJ, nor backup dancers, and he is no longer scared of being solitary - he, in fact, obsesses over it.
In I Fall Apart, his breakup-magnum-opus, Malone crouches down on stage during the track’s final crescendo; it seems more sappy than sincere, but the audience doesn’t care. Their phone-lights and glassy eyes illuminate the arena. Each song performed, Post mixes pyrotechnics and often brooding visuals to create an atmosphere symbolic of his psyche. He is manic and passionate, whether that be in his relationships in tracks like Better Now, or his riches, in Psycho or White Iverson.
The light-show may sometime overshadow some of Malone’s weaker joints, but it lets his lyrics carry themselves without his occasional melodrama. The only point where the pyrotechnics are given a break and where Post is accompanied with an instrument is in the angsty ballad Stay. It’s the perfect distillation of his skill of juggling genres. He throws bars on top of an acoustic guitar, an infusion that, somehow strangely, works. It’s again, an extension of his own self-interrogation, his remoteness showcased by a lone, intense spotlight.
Post’s final hat-trick begins with Sunflower, the sweetly inoffensive and joyous Swae Lee collaboration from the Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse soundtrack. The song is a welcome reprieve from the sometimes overwrought angst in Post’s set, with the crowd standing up for the biggest sing-along of the night. However, he crossfades the end of the track into the contrastingly darker and hedonistic Rockstar. On the back end of the song, Malone is delirious. He stares directly into the camera for the first time of the night, screaming “Man, I feel just like a rockstar!”. The song, at face value, is infectiously excessive. But the way Post finally comes to terms with his fame on stage, looking at himself, and the audience directly in the eyes, there’s something truly unsettling by his idea of being a ‘Rockstar’. He ends the song by bringing back out his guitar, before smashing it on stage. Almost surprisingly, his rage doesn’t feel fabricated.
The closer Congratulations is deemed a big fuck-you to his naysayers. His fame and success is given a colossus applause, again, by himself and the audience, with indoor fireworks closing the night. “Do whatever makes you happy,” he tells the crowd, before returning back into the darkness.
Post Malone is ubiquitous. Knowing just some of his lyrics seems inevitable in our streaming-heavy landscape. However, transforming his gluttony and anguish into a live-show, completely alone, and having his audience legitimately affected by it, is an impressive feat. He’s proven he can tear down an arena, even if it’s at the expense of doing the same to himself.