Gang Signs & Prayer Tour
O2 Academy - Birmingham
Stormzy has grown massively over the past two years, as he brings a mix of slow jams, soulful ballads and massive tunes to his biggest show to date, he shows that his rise through the ranks isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
Stormzy (Michael Omari) is full of surprises and is constantly surpassing expectations, through an independent label this past year he’s managed to release a Number one album in the form of Gang Signs & Prayer, not only that but it’s the first grime album to top the UK charts, oh and the biggest surprise is that it’s not a full on rave, it’s a beautiful mix of high energy big grime hits and some soulful inspiring ballads with the likes of MNEK & Kehlani and that’s exactly what his new live show reflects.
It’s fair to say Stormzy is one of the hottest artists around at the moment, the O2 Academy Birmingham show sold out in minutes when it went on sale, it’s instantly apparent as the club is filled to the brim, full of more than eager fans ready to go wild and that’s exactly what happens as he launches into the appropriately titled ‘First Things First’
If you thing that’s wild you haven’t seen anything as the club goes to another level for latest single ‘Cold’ it’s infectious beat and lyrics are shouted back to Stormzy with each rhyme, referencing his incredulous rise from making music in the park and charting.
If I could describe Stormzy in one word it would have to be versatile, he shows his not just a one note Grime rapper, this is most noticeable when he pulls up a chair, tells the crowd it’s not all about the hype and to sing as loud as they can to his next track, suddenly the crowd erupts to the sound of Cigarettes & Cush, it’s a touching moment, a true artist is able to have control of the crowd during the highs but it’s when they can keep them transfixed during the slow numbers like Stormzy does that shows their real raw talent.
The majority of GSAP is played throughout the set, each getting the same fever pitch reaction whether it be a touching tribute to his mum with ‘100 Bags’, a riot of a song like ‘Mr. Skeng’ or his remix of mega pop hit ‘Shape Of You’ dedicated to his good friend Ed Sheeran whose too busy on his own sell out tour to be here this evening. One friend that did make an appearance however was local Grime MC JayKae for one hell of a fierce track.
If you think things couldn't get anymore crazy then your completely wrong as Stormzy tears the roof and his shirt off for the encore, his highest charting single ‘Big For Your Boots’ is up first, every word is screamed back, the mad tempo continues with breakthrough hit ‘Shut Up’ as echoes of ‘LA LALALALA, LA” and “Shut Up” can be heard across Birmingham I imagine, it’s impressive that the song’s mass appeal is still infectious all these years later since it’s debut.
Chant’s of Stormzy’s name erupts as the song finishes, he seems very proud and rightfully so of his massive step up from playing the library to selling out the O2 Academy, he hypes the crowd up for the big finale, absolute classic ‘Know Me From’ has the room shaking, some people start to depart thinking they’d reached the finish, more fool them as he decides to finish with a uplifting spiritual message, it’s the terrific ‘Blinded By Your Grace, Part 2” which has arms aloft and everyone singing in unison. Of course Stormzy’s not the sort of guy to have a low energy send off, he returns once more turning the entire middle of the academy into a massive moshpit as he bursts straight back into ‘Know Me From’
Stormzy’s value is continuing to skyrocket, he’s sold out the academy, he’s proven himself to tonight that he’s more than rightfully earned his place as the new poster boy of grime, he’s the UK’s true unsigned talent and is set for massive things, what’s next? well this summer has made it clear, this weekend he set’s off to conquer America at Coachella, after my experience last year he’s sure to be a hidden gem placed early on the lineup, for American’s who might be unaware of what to expect from Stormzy I believe the closest comparison is Chance The Rapper, an independent artist that mixes melodic slow jams with up tempo party hits and strong gospel influences in his album and tracks. miss his set at your peril
Over on these shores his set for a massive slot at Glastonbury, V Festival and is even headlining Longitude. If you haven’t seen Stormzy yet or think he might not just be your thing, step out of your comfort zone and you’ll be treated to a mental live experience that you’ll find hard to forget for sometime.