After setting this same stage ablaze with his ‘In the Fire’ performance at the BRIT Awards last month, it’s hard to imagine how 23-year-old Streatham rapper Dave could possible elevate his artistry any further. But with the O2 Arena in temporary disarray after Storm Eunice left the iconic dome resembling a pair of frayed boxers, Dave’s show doesn’t suffer as a result of past postponements. Instead, his headline show at the colosseum-like venue is the true embodiment of his artistic prowess and immeasurable fandom.
The sprawling, career-spanning setlist comprises material from Dave’s formative EPs ‘Six Paths’ (2016) and ‘Game Over’ (2017) as well as his Mercury Prize-winning debut record, ‘Psychodrama’ and last year’s ‘We’re All Alone in This Together’. Not wasting any time, the wordsmith kicks things into gear with the Fredo-assisted fan favourite ‘Funky Friday’, and as both artists rap in tandem the audience match it word for word. In line with earlier material, the stage then switches to ‘Psychodrama’ sapphire for the introspective ‘Psycho’, closely followed by ‘Disaster’ and ‘Screwface Capital’.
Dave’s music has always had introspection and self-meditative mantras baked into their core, and tonight this connection is taken a step further. Addressing the crowds, he recounts feeling equally confident and anxious to perform, and looks back on his musical beginnings learning the piano, all thanks to his mother’s financial sacrifice. Once he jumps over to a smaller stage to perform his breakout 2016 track ‘Wanna Know’, the audience are chanting along in a hymn-like manner as the lighting fixtures move up and down – almost as if Dave’s wielding them with telekinesis.
AJ Tracey then joins the stage to perform their grime-laced floor-stomper ‘Thiago Silva’ as they frantically pace up and down spitting bars with superhuman breath control. His guest’s love letter to West London in UK garage form, ‘Ladbroke Grove’ follows in quick succession, before Dave uses ‘Lazarus’ to let loose and dance, as glitzy pyrotechnics run riot.
Later in the show, Dave touchingly puts his gig on pause to pay a heartfelt tribute to the late music entrepreneur and SBTV founder Jamal Edwards, who passed away last week. Throughout the tribute, Dave displays footage of some beloved SBTV sessions, including Ed Sheeran, Nines and J Hus. “Jamal Edwards is the reason I’m standing in front of you guys here today,” he says.
After a moment of reflection, it’s onto the finale – boasting another two guest appearances. Central Cee performs his hit ‘Day in the Life’, to roaring applause before ‘Location’ is rapidly followed by tonight’s closer. As the opening bars of ‘Clash’ ring out, Dave is joined by none other than Stormzy. Embracing his friend with brotherly love, the pair close out the show to a standing ovation.
In the evening’s closing moments, Dave reiterates his love and thanks to everyone who has come out to support him. Treating his fans like family, the energy or engagement doesn’t subside at all for the two-hour set. It feels like a landmark night for both Dave and the UK rap scene as a whole.
‘Funky Friday (with Fredo)
‘Thiago Silva’ (with AJ Tracey)
‘Ladbroke Grove’ (with AJ Tracey)
‘Twenty to One’
‘Law of Attraction’
‘Both Sides of a Smile’ (with ShaSimone)
‘They Ain’t 100’ (with Fredo)
‘Day in the Life’ (with Central Cee)
‘Clash’ (with Stormzy)