It was a grey and dull April evening in Bournemouth – and yet there was a buzz that made you forget about the goosebumps and drizzle. There was a storm coming to the city. A snake-like queue surrounded the O2 Arena, clearly undeterred by the weather a baying mob of teenagers from all backgrounds awaited Stormzy – the 23-year-old London grime act – who has been taking the country, and further, by storm.
Whatever way you feel about him, Stormzy is music’s new superstar.
‘Gang Signs’ and ‘Prayers’ was the long-awaited debut album that floored every critic the grime scene has ever had to deal with. Waxing about inner city struggles and brazenly tackling mental health issues – the album is lyrically and rhythmically potent.
More special than all of this is the fact that he built the whole thing while staying true to everything that he believed in.
What this means for the lucky ones amongst us who get to see him live, is that every vocal delivery comes loaded with power, truth, venom and realism – because it comes from a place that’s real.
Before the show even started, the crowd were treated to a DJ set from Big Mikey’s resident DJs. Mixing a collection of 90’s R&B, classic hip hop and innovative grime – there was something for everyone. Crowds usually spend the first couple of hours uninterested and anticipating the main act but with the party vibes, the time slipped away fast.
South Londoner songwriter, rapper and producer A2 warmed up the crowd further. The all-rounder 26-year-old is known for his soulful electronica and woozy R&B vibes. The sounds of his best-known hits ‘Gold’ and ‘X2 (DBLE)’ were flawless as they echoed around the Grade 2 listed venue as the packed crowd swayed to the beat. After the perfect playlists from the DJ, it was finally time to welcome Mr Skeng.
White strobe lights, copious amounts of smoke and the roaring beat of ‘First Things First’ welcomed Stormzy to the stage – as the crowd jumped, cheered and clapped in excitement. Highlights of the night included the profound sounds of ‘100 Bags’ and ‘Cigarettes and Cush’ juxtaposed with the lyrical attack of ‘Standard’. Topping it all off was the impressive encore where the rapper rhymed off ‘Big For Your Boots’, ‘Shut Up’ and the sublime gospel/grime greatness that is ‘Blinded By Your Grace Pt. 2’.
Stormzy referred throughout to his capacity audience as his ‘Energy Crew’, hyping both his fans and self alike to keep the momentum amped up to the full.
Stormzy noted that Bournemouth was specially requested city for the tour by himself personally, after loving the crowd last year when playing at ‘Annie Mac Presents’.
We blushed at the compliment and were collectively encouraged to give everything and more for the entire gig.
The crowd knew the lyrics, down to most obscure – a slightly offensive – South London reference. They’d poured over these words and listened to the songs again and again, (and so had I). Stormzy captivated the audience – we were in the palm of his hands and lapped up every lyric, every word and every joke. Stormzy is known for being a genuine, ‘nice guy’ and this was showcased as an excited teenage fan jumped on stage with him and performed a somersault. Instead of calling on security, Stormzy handed the boy his microphone and let him have his say. I haven’t seen many other stars who would have done that.
I didn’t think it possible, but somehow I left the show an even bigger fan than before.
Crowds left the venue, still yelling his lyrics and still wanting more.
This is just one show, from the first album of many. Here’s looking to the future.
If you’re not one of the nearly 60 million people who has viewed Stormzy’s ‘Shut-Up’ where have you been?
Stormzy at Wildlife Festival 2017
See Stormzy, Dizzie Rascal, Andy C and Damien ‘Jr Gong’ Marley and much more on the 10th June at Wildlife Festival for under £70.
See Stromzy, Dizzie Rascal, JME, Wiley, Andy C and Fatboy Slim for under £120 at Wildlife Festival for the weekend.
You can’t beat those prices!
Upcoming Stormzy gigs
O2 Academy Brixton, London, UK
O2 Academy Brixton, London, UK