stormzy o2 academy brixton review

Stormzy at O2 Brixton Academy, Review: one for the history books!

While it’s been almost two weeks since this concert, the experience is still heavy on my mind. 
Over the past 3 years, Stormzy has arguably become the most influential, exciting independent artist of the moment. My journey with the Grime star has been pretty interesting. Working at MOBO I’ve been able to witness his ascent with great insight. I think back to 2014 and finding only 2,000 followers on Facebook, Just over 40,000 followers on Twitter and a highly-praised EP. At the time, I knew Stormzy had talent and I think, like most when he was nominated for Best Grime Act alongside some of the biggest artists in the genre, he was considered the underdog. However, anyone unaware of his home-grown success would never guess from the crowd on the second of his three sold-out nights at London’s Brixton Academy. 
Entering the venue and making my way towards the rear of the stage, you could instantly feel a bubbling excitement throughout Brixton Academy. The gig was a special one for me in particular, as it marked my very first time seeing Stormzy perform live at his very own gig. So, as you can imagine, I came into the experience not knowing what or who to expect. With a storming set by A2 in the bag and a sick DJ set from Rachel Anson and DJ Jukes, the anticipation was palpable as Stormzy’s headline slot quickly approached. 
As the house lights came down, all that lit up the venue were mobile phone lights. The experience fans have been waiting for all night was about to begin. Appearing in elaborate fashion, Stormzy clearly didn’t skimp on the production budget for his latest trek, performing in front of LED screens complete with eye-popping projections, pyrotechnics, and flashing strobes. While the production certainly added to the magnitude of the gig, it was the charm, charisma and performance skills from Stormzy which kept me enthralled throughout the night. 

He masterfully muddled set pieces and eras, treating us to throwback hits like “Shut Up” and “Know Me From”, then taking us through his critically-acclaimed debut album, Gang Signs and Prayer, in a unique, new way. With an impressive catalog of music under his belt, Stormzy could easily play for two hours without let up. But it’s his ability to be present in the moment, to command the dynamics and allow the audience to feel his humanity that sets him apart from his contemporaries. 
While the guest appearances were limited, except a thrilling appearance from Ghetts who, as expected, delivered a memorable live performance of his GSAP collaboration “Bad Boys”, there would be no other major surprises during the show—hell, to be honest, none were needed. Stormzy knows how to work a room, even one with 5,000 people in it. 
Considering all of his recent success and chart hits, I could still tell that the gig was a major milestone for him. To be headlining three sold-out shows at London’s Brixton Academy is no easy feat. He spoke to the audience in a way you would imagine he speaks to a friend. In a casual yet honest tone, emphasizing to the crowd how much our presence and support meant to him. He’ll never let fans forget that London is where it all started for him or where he had his first sold-out show. Sure, the capacity might not have been that of an arena or stadium, but the atmosphere and bubbling excitement in the crowd were just the same.
While his closing London show, which featured high-profile guest appearances from Ed Sheeran and more, may have dominated headlines and timelines, I never once felt like I missed out. Stormzy delivered a show that was musically and technically one of my favourite gigs of 2017 so far. Embarking on his biggest, most ambitious tour yet, Stormzy handled the occasion with ease and gave an enthralled audience an object lesson in how to stage a one-man show. Wednesday night’s return date to Brixton Academy was an emphatic curtain call for Stormzy’s family and friends in the city that love him best, and I’m glad I got to witness the magic unfold. 

Photo Credit: Kaylum Dennis 


Adenike Gboyega (@NickiG91)