Evolution Festival, Newcastle Quayside, June 4
Alot of people have been waiting for this moment for a long time. The moment the only true superstar to have emerged from the UK’s grime scene gets back onstage after 2009’s ‘Tongue N’ Cheek’ made him England’s greatest living rap star. The arrival of the man whose work with Armand van Helden, Calvin Harris, Shy FX and Tiesto saw him conquer Ibiza, the charts, every summer party ever. The crowd chatter as we wait. About “a new direction”, about becoming “as big as Kanye”, about whether he’ll “ever, ever, EVER write another track as huge as ‘Bonkers’”.
At 9.45pm Dizzee ‘back back back’ Rascal takes to the stage to deliver his sermon. And as if the previous nine hours of decadent behaviour have angered Thor, the heavens open. It does little to cool the fervour of the hormone-fuelled mob, and as grime’s boy-gone-massive bounds on we’re left pondering if the endless stream of people being dragged past by the police is some sort of ironic performance art. But the real action’s onstage. And for Mr Rascal it’s not a great deviation from form, as he recreates his set from last year’s V Festival almost to the note. It would be hard to get annoyed, though, because it’s still class. When you’ve got a back catalogue like Dizzee’s it would seem borderline selfish to hold back. It is, after all, a set that’s grown organically, with additions finding their niche, gradually, over time.
The result is an attention-grabbing mix of singles and classic album tracks, as ‘Road Rage’ is followed by ‘Sirens’ and ‘Bassline Junkie’ then ‘Jus’ A Rascal’. It’s relentlessly vibrant and irresistibly fun. Regularly pausing to check the embattled crowd are still sentient, he keeps up the pace with a show-stopping version of ‘Chillin Wiv Da Man Dem’. Dizzee protégée Pepper takes to the stage for a belting rendition of ‘Scream’, showcasing the impressive pipes that have made her a favourite in the ever-growing Rascal family. From one pair o’pipes to another, Dizzee’s Florence + The Machine love-in ‘You Got The Dirtee Love’ whips the crowd into heart attack excitement as fireworks and streamers hurtle into the sky above the iconic backdrop of the River Tyne. Then he bounds offstage and into the night. But not for long!
Re-emerging to his new single with DJ Fresh, the shuddering dub behemoth ‘The Power’, he continues headlong into ‘Holiday’ and then ‘Bonkers’ before careering offstage for good with a shout of, “Drive safe and wear a condom!” as the crowd screams “let’s go fucking bonkers!” in unison, a scream that continues long into the early hours. He’s back, and he’s bangin’.