100 Club, London, July 30
He might have the Number One album in the country, but Plan B wants you to remember there’s more to him than ‘Ill Manors’. After beatboxer Faith SFX whips up the crowd packed into the 100 Club with his one-man takes on The Prodigy and Jay-Z, Ben Drew bursts onto the stage and straight into ‘Prayin’’ from 2010’s ‘The Defamation Of Strickland Banks’. His band morphs it into a reggae version, then a rock version. He’s a one-man iPod shuffle, and he’s just getting started.
The first third of the set draws heavily from ‘The Defamation…’ and we get the first proper taste of his no-holds-barred rapping on ‘The Recluse’, before he leads the crowd through the mass-karaoke of ‘She Said’. Having proved his mastery of the big pop hook, he gets Faith SFX back onstage to help him mix the old with the new. His soulful cover of Ben E King’s ‘Stand By Me’ is given a live dubstep makeover by his beatboxing companion, and then they repeat the trick by blending Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’ with ‘Forgot About Dre’.
There’s barely a moment spared between each track, and in the hot and sweaty confines of this 350-capacity club it feels relentlessly intense. We’re halfway through the set by the time Plan B welcome us to ‘Ill Manors’. ‘Deepest Shame’ is harder and more brutal than anything that’s gone before, while during ‘Lost My Way’ the air is thick with adrenaline. And Plan B senses it. “What do you think would happen if we started a moshpit in this club?” he says, before playing his Chase & Status collaboration ‘Pieces’ to answer his own question. Plan B, Faith SFX and the rest of the band get involved too, throwing themselves into each other and ricocheting across the stage.
There’s a lot of angry energy in the air, but when ‘Ill Manors’ itself kicks off with those Shostakovich violins and Plan B stands right on the edge of the stage playing air violin, he seems like he might be enjoying himself. The song is epic and furious and for a moment the 100 Club is transported back to the white heat of the punk era.
At this point Drew slides off for a quick breather, his first of the set, while Faith SFX calms things down with a snatch of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. He only gets halfway through before the night’s ringleader re-emerges. ‘Stay Too Long’ is a microcosm of the night: the classic sample bleeding into a soul hook before breaking down into a rap tirade. Too long? Forty-five minutes ain’t long enough.
Kevin EG Perry