Stormzy hit The O2 Academy Sheffield on Sunday 30th April with much anticipation after the release of his highly acclaimed album ‘Gang Signs & Prayer’.
The scene was set perfectly by the warm up DJ, who blasted out grime and rap royalty. The likes of Kendrick, Kanye, JME, Skepta and of course the ever crowd pleasing “Feed ‘em to the Lions” got the crowd pumping as early signs of moshing formulated.
“An overwhelming air of excitement”
As darkness fell and smoke filled the stage, there was an overwhelming air of excitement. The reason for Stormzy’s nickname ‘Big Mike’ became blisteringly apparent as he burst through the clouds of smoke and jumped under the frantic lasers. The crowd erupted. His prolific stage presence was felt immediately. Not only in his massive stature but he commanded the stage like a man on a mission. Stormzy was not going to let the crowd die down anytime soon as he chanted, “Where are my energy crew? let me hear some noise”.
With the bass blasting and the crowd going crazy, Stormzy opened with his huge grime tune First Things First and continued to keep the energy going with his quick tempo and endless energy. The likes of Cold and Bad Boys set the place on fire.
Gang Signs & Prayer is so critically acclaimed not just for it’s big grime beats but its softer, more melodic side and there were question marks over how he would deal with the contrast on stage. Stormzy pulled up a stool and told us to think about what is close to us “Whether it’s your relationship with God, girlfriend, best mate”. It works so beautifully on the album but live, the contrast doesn’t quite have the same effect. The noise of the crowd drowned out the depth of the slower songs such as ‘Blinded By Your Grace, Part One’ and ‘Velvet/Jenny Francis’ but there was still an intimacy for such a large venue, especially noticeable in ‘Ciggarettes and Kush’ and ‘Blinded By Your Grace, Part Two’, which were much more fitting for the atmosphere.
“Know Me From turned the crowd into a wild zoo”
The last 20 minutes were phenomenal. Stormzy showcased his grime splendour with anthems ‘Big For Your Bootz’, ‘Shut Up’ and most impressively, ‘Know Me From’ – which he played twice because it turned the crowd into a wild zoo. His fans adored him as he lowered himself into the abyss of wavering arms.
1 hour 15 minutes was admittedly too long a show at this stage for Stormzy. There were parts where he lost the crowd but as for his anthems, he blew myself and the rest of the O2 away. Stormzy’s enthusiasm and energy was infectious and it proved for an incredible night. It was a pleasure seeing grime royalty in the flesh and witnessing someone who is inevitably going to go down in British music history.