“Your mam is a MILF!”
So shouts a gang of scrappy semi-shirtless 14-year-olds at a mam and her mortified son in the balcony. Said gaggle of youngsters then proceeds to hijack comedian David McSavage’s selfie from the pit.
Yeah – things get off to a positively weird start at the opening night of Stormzy‘s ‘Gang Signs and Prayer’ tour. Odd social interactions aside, it’s unbelievable tense in the Olympia Theatre as the crowd waits for the biggest thing to happen to grime since Barry Scott.
As if his cult collowing wasn’t enough, Stormzy is about to fully ride the wave of his debut album’s success. Critically acclaimed for its lyricism and the wide spectrum of styles presented, he’s grown beyond the simple title of MC or hypeman – he’s an artist.
It’s only fair then that he opens with First Things First – a decisive sweep on the crowd in which the 23-year-old Londoner asserts his position as the boss. Cold follows – another cocky call out to his detractors and naysayers. Towards the end he loses some composure, tripping over his words and laughing, but Cold is the only song where he’d get away with doing so.
“This is my testimony”
Initially, it appears Skengman is going to struggle with maintaining a consistent pace across the set – after all, his body of work is composed of as much gospel music as grime. Thankfully, any uncertainties are dashed. His ambition and his self-assurance is pretty remarkable.
“I was told I should just do an hour and ten of straight grime,” he said. “That doesn’t represent my album.”
“I really need to perform this to testify […] This is my testimony,” before his performance of Velvet / Jenny Francis.
On wax and in person, he’s a strong advocate for open discourse on mental health, particularly among his peers. Storzmy doesn’t tolerate toxic masculinity – an action he carries through to his live performances.
“Let’s get in our feelings,” he says, acknowledging that there are a lot of ‘mandem’ (his words, not mine) in the crowd compared to females before launching into Cigarettes And Cush.
Return Of The Rucksack is the unrivaled set highlight, as the conglomerate of previously semi-shirtless 14-year-olds abandon their attire entirely.
Lead single Big For Your Boots could be seen as Stormzy’s coronation anthem – giving himself the title of ‘new king’, it’s clear why he’s in the position he is now. Presence-wise, he is commander-in-chief, coming across as the seasoned veteran when it comes to live performance. His arrogance is never intolerable, his verses come down strong and he is met with reverence by the young, intensely passionate crowd.
“This is what God done,” he concludes his tour-de-force show, and a performance that will no doubt have people scrambling for Friday Longitude tickets.
Stormzy headlines the Friday night of Longitude festival on July 14th. Day tickets cost €69.50.