I had never been to a gig alone before, but 5 minutes into the Rachel Alsdon DJ set I was alone no more. She lit up the O2 Academy after the dis opening act, A2, warming us up just right for Big Mike.
He appropriately kicked things off with First Things First, which is also the first track on his recently released debut album Gang Sings and Prayers, or as written as the hashtag #GSAP, but it is the track Cold that the venue gets lit for real. We started singing and jumping along with Stormzy. He managed to keep his hoodie on for less than 5 minutes, before the heat we emanated forced him to start undressing.
Mr. Skeng continued to pump up the crowd with WickedSkengman 4, the first track that isn’t on #GSAP. At this point, he slowed things down, getting romantic with Velvet, which could be seen as a ballad with its smooth and chill vibes. This was probably the calmest moment of the night.
From here on, though, it was a mosh pit party, which was then slowed down by Blinded By Your Grace PT.1, a few songs later. We all knew that it was just going to get better then, as it then crescendoed into the Shape of You remix and 21 Guns Salute, one of the most intimate songs of the album.
The crowd got hyped with Big For Your Boots, there was a mess of sweaty, bare-chest people jumping all over each other, that then transported into Shut Up and Know Me From in an almost unconscious status, feeding off other’s energy.
It is in these moments of unreal enthusiasm that you reckon he must have been shirtless for a while now, where he just stood up in silence with his massive arms outstretched — the crowd just went crazy. When he comes back on stage chanting, “HERE WE FUCKING GO,” into his mic, the crowd all go berserk and it feels like an out-of-this-world experience.
We were actually taken out of this world, however, when Blinded By Your Grace Pt. 2 began. This song is a gospel, continuing his profession of his devotion to God as referenced in Pt.1, and like a gospel we all sang. Hanging on to strangers, feeling like part of something bigger, it would have been the perfect way to end the show, if we hadn’t called him back. And back he came, jumping to Know Me From again, reaching a final apotheosis of fervour that let us go home on fire.
It’s uncertain how people in the seated gallery or the balconies could have really enjoyed themselves on this occasion, however I believe that we were all thankful for an eclectic poet who is bringing grime to unprecedented levels of popularity, and has the talent to become one of the most renowned hip-hop artists of this generation.
Photo credit: Cameron Brisbane