a powerful artist at the top of his game
Standing on a disc suspended by chains from the roof, hovering above the heads of a roaring crowd at Newcastle’s Utilita Arena amid bursts of pyrotechnics, Stormzy looked like the closest thing British pop ever come to a superhero. Six-foot-five and bulging with muscle, the charismatic powerhouse led the frontline in a spectacle filled with more special effects than a Marvel blockbuster.
With all the dazzling screen images, inventive moving light platforms, and showers of sparkles and confetti, those spectacular Coldplay stadium specialists might be wondering how Stormzy got the keys to their production trick box. This show was a real arena show, as well-crafted as any I’ve seen, on every level: sonic, visual and emotional.
It had taken a long time to come. Fans had been holding onto tickets for two years as multiple pandemic postponements prevented the nation’s most popular rapper from promoting his 2019 number one album Heavy Is the Head. One benefit is that by the time Stormzy’s tour finally left the track, his audience had become intimately familiar with the album, the arena echoing to the sound of 11,000 fans chanting hooks and catchphrases and singing along to ballads.
With the star of the show spending much of her time on a ramp leading deep into the crowd as if emerging from a sea of bodies, it really felt like a gathering. “I made a promise to God to never take this for granted,” he beamed. “For the past two years, I’ve had a good time with my family, I’ve been making music, but going to the arena today was like: we’re still here! We are still alive!
The show was effectively divided into three sections. The thrilling opener was all Stormzy, charging past vivid arty screen imagery, delivering crisp, clear rap lyrics over bright, harsh electronic backing tracks. If it looked like a typical solo rap show, a change of lighting for a more restrained mid-section revealed a band behind the screen, as six singers lined up on either side of the stage, mixing gospel, soul and jazz in the filth. to mix together.