Dizzee Rascal was hitting the headlines at O2 for a packed out gig and Getintothis’ Joe Thomas was there to lap up his world.
Dizzee Rascal kicked off his latest album tour with a blistering performance showcasing his return to the genre that he played such a crucial role in pioneering.
After a weekend that saw him hit the headlines for the latest exchanges in his long running feud with fellow grime kingpin Wiley, he launched his Raskit tour at Liverpool’s O2.
And he put in a display that highlighted the potential of his return to a scene that has exploded in his absence.
Boy In Da Corner – that hugely influential album that helped plant the seeds of grime’s eventual takeover – was released 14 years ago. That means it was so long ago freshers coming to Liverpool’s universities this year were barely at primary school when it dropped.
It’s often only on returning to that record in your playlist – or bursting into life when Fix Up Look Sharp makes a random return to the club speakers – that you recall quite how good, and groundbreaking, that album was.
And it’s then you realise just how absent Dizzee has been from the grittier corners of the British music scene since his exploration of, shall we say, more commercial areas.
Now, if there’s one genre that doesn’t need the return of a grandee to help its chart takeover, then its grime.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t benefit from Dizzee’s return to what he did best. And Raskit feels like Dizzee’s attempt to prove he can be more than relevant on his return.
The audience is there – as shown by the fans that turned out on a grim Monday night to see him.
And his sharp, witty lyricism definitely remains.
This is a move away from summer party anthems and a return to some of the perceptive commentary that made Boy In Da Corner so aggressively intriguing.
Tonight’s performance felt like a re-introduction to Dizzee.
He came on stage to the tolling of the midnight bell – like WWE’s Undertaker returning from the dead.
And while there was plenty of Raskit, the set list was interspersed with his classics.
The crowd were aptly prepped by Donae’o – whose name alone sparks an instant repetition from crowds at this type of concert – and who is one of those who has enjoyed creditable success over recent years.
And the place burst into life when Dizzee entered.
He started with new tracks – Space and Ghost – each returns to his big, jarring baseline tunes of old before revving up the atmosphere with a burst of I Luv You and Stop Dat
The set list was splintered with welcome appearances of hits which suggested however influential Dizzee has been, he knows he has to give the crowd some of his back catalogue to build a platform on which to display his new stuff.
He can’t just waltz back to grime now it’s massive without having to remind listeners of his credentials.
After showcasing new tunes he ramped it up in the middle by turning to Jezebel, Just a Rascal and Fix Up Look Sharp – each causing the crowd to erupt before dropping into shouting the final words of each verse – pretty much the only bits most of us can keep up with.
Dizzee’s foray into summer anthems may have undermined his grime credentials to some critics, but it’s easy to forget they were successful. Dance With Me got one of the biggest cheers of the night, leading to a finale of Holiday and an encore of Bonkers – the latter genuinely having the crowd bouncing like mad.
Whether Dizzee can challenge the chart dominance of the current crop of grime megastars remains to be seen.
But he has a fighting chance with his re-emergence.
This was 80 minutes, 18 tracks of lyrical intelligence, obnoxious beats and heavy bass that remind you what he offered at his peak, what he has the potential to offer going forward, and that will leave the O2 vibrating for days.
While Dizzee attempts to reestablish himself, anyone in late through the doors missed a glimpse of what could be the next wave of success.
Liverpool rapper Tremz opened up the night with a performance that saw his aggressive enthusiasm match that of the lifestyle his lyrics describe.
To listen to grime is to accept you are heading into the sometimes murky world of Britain’s inner city streets -that’s pretty much the point. But putting any debate about content to one side, his time on stage only served as a further reminder of why Scouse Trap is deservedly attracting hype not just across the UK, but on the other side of the Atlantic too.
Images by Getintothis’ Gary Coughlan