The Glasgow crowd evidently know Stormzy from somewhere. They’re screaming back the words to his 2014 hit like they’re getting their vocal chords removed tomorrow, and bouncing hard enough to make the floor shake. At times it’s flat-out mesmerising.
And the audience, front, back and centre, are absolutely caked in sweat.
As the song finishes, the London rapper stands at the edge of the stage topless, arms spread wide to reveal the full wingspan of his 6ft 5” frame. A wall of sound reverberates back at him; the screams and shouts of the Glasgow crowd intercut with the sound of a sold out O2 Academy stamping their feet in unison.
This was Stormzy’s penultimate number, before a mass sing-along closed the show with ‘Blinded By Your Grace Pt. 2’. But the same level of energy had been flowing since the grime star took to the stage.
Stormzy’s debut album ‘Gang Signs and Prayers’ has been an instant success. It’s not the in-your-face diss record that many might have expected, though. Sure, those tracks are in there (and they’re good) – ‘Shut Up’, ‘Big For Your Boots’, ‘Mr Skeng’, ‘Bad Boys’ – but there’s a softer side to Stormzy; a slow-dancing smooth crooner who shows himself on tracks like the beautiful ‘Velvet’, instantly catchy ‘Cigarettes & Cush’, on the story-telling of ‘100 Bags’ and of course on ‘Blinded By Your Grace’ parts one and two, which Stormzy tells the Glasgow crowd are “of particular importance to him”.
Stormzy knows exactly how to get the best out of his audience whether he’s serenading them with a sing-song or ramming a bassline and boasts down their throat. He tells the crowd not to mosh because “you’ll laugh when the melody drops in!” before doing his verse from Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ and getting the audience to sing him Sheeran’s parts. They duly oblige.
Next thing you know, he’s dropping ‘Shut Up’ and ‘Big For Your Boots’ back to back and the gig has gone from a chart show to mosh-led grime chaos. Fans are regularly spotted forcing their way out of the front lines of the gig topless, drenched in sweat and sporting a half-conscious smile on their face before getting some water, a breather and heading back in.
The Glasgow crowd were ready and willing for whatever Stormzy throws at them. They know the songs, they know the words and they know to obey the word of the big man. And he knows how to direct them; orchestrating the national chant of Scotland: “Here we… Here we… Here we fucking go”.
It was absolute chaos at times. ‘Return of the Rucksack’ was a wild ride. At least 100 people must’ve got elbowed in the face during ‘Standard’; all while Stormzy put in a performance worthy of a veteran artist on stage. It’s hard to believe he’s still only 24. The lyrical verses on ’21 Gun Salute’ are fantastic.
Here at JFC, we like to say that no encore is the new encore. Every artist who comes out on stage now feels obliged to do an encore for their crowd, making the whole process pointless. We all know this, but it happens anyway. The encore no longer has any worth.
When the time came for it, Stormzy just shouted: “Fuck that, you’ve still got the energy? Let’s keep that energy going!” and powered straight through to the end of the setlist – a full 20 songs in total at least – without more than a few minutes break.
There’s not many around that can produce that level of energy from a sold out crowd non-stop for an hour and a half. This was something special.
Stuart Kenny 5/5