Grime time at the O2 Academy – Stormzy, Live in Birmingham

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On his first major solo tour, Stormzy is riding a wave of pride and glory in his numerous successes of 2017. On Tuesday, he brought his sold-out #GSAP tour to the O2 Academy in Birmingham. The queue outside the venue stretched around the building, and Stormzy’s recent posts of high-energy clips from the tour meant Birmingham had a lot to live up to.

His warm up DJs hyped the crowd so much that the energy in the room had reached fever-pitch before the main event. When Stormzy finally emerged from masses of smoke with the opening verse to ‘First Things First’, it was impossible to think the crowd could get any louder. After the first song, he made an announcement, setting the tone for the rest of the gig. He warned anyone who just wanted to stand around to “get the *expletive* out of here right now”, before launching into the opening bars of ‘Cold’. Mosh-pit madness ensued. Stormzy obviously thrives on an immense energy in his shows, and Birmingham sent it off the scale, as he jumped and dived around the stage. His skilful rapping technique was shown to be something that was best appreciated live, providing a completely different vibe to a recorded album.

When Stormzy finally emerged from masses of smoke with the opening verse to ‘First Things First’, it was impossible to think the crowd could get any louder

Strangely, he tried to vary the pace by scattering his slower, less appealing tracks amongst the big beats. ‘Blinded By Your Grace Pt. 1’ followed the aggressive, pride-drenched ‘Return of the Rucksack’. He knew it was jarring to do this, when the crowd were barely recovering from the overexcitement of tracks like ‘Cold’. Bringing a stool onstage, he told the audience that it signalled “the opposite of a mosh-pit situation”, to calm them down before beginning the slow-jam ‘Velvet’. The only disappointment was that he chose these ‘singing’ tracks, as opposed to his MC-ing ones, over better tracks from the album like ‘Lay Me Bare’ or ‘Don’t Cry For Me’, which were missing from the set-list. But, he did treat the crowd to something else new to his catalogue- his remix of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, which he is obviously proud of.

Stormzy in performance. Image: Aaishah Rauf

The only drawback to this gig was that the switch into the slower tracks from huge bangers like ‘Mr Skeng’ and ‘Big for Your Boots’ were a little rought and massively changed the energy in the room, although he made light of this when he finished the solemn ‘Cigarettes & Cush’ by saying “that’s enough of that- let’s go!”, and dived into ‘Bad Boys’.

The tone of the entire gig was celebratory, coming at the pinnacle of grime’s recent successes

The crowd went crazy for the songs which have helped him reach the level of fame and exposure he’s currently enjoying, in particular, ‘Shut Up’ and ‘WickedSkengMan 4’. He ended with another archive track, ‘Know Me From’, before a rousing rendition of ‘Blinded By Your Grace Pt. 2’. The tone of the entire gig was celebratory, coming at the pinnacle of grime’s recent successes. To the delight of the crowd, he ran out on stage once more for an encore verse of ‘Know Me From’, ending the show on a high.

This is just the start for Stormzy, who clearly takes well to performing live, and has recently been announced on the Glastonbury and Coachella line-ups, while this tour is his biggest yet, taking him to Europe, then Australia – if you’re lucky enough to catch him at any of these, be sure to bring maximum energy levels.

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