From the start of the night, Headie One’s sold-out O2 Brixton show seems like an utter fail. He has three top 20 singles to his name and his debut ‘Music X Road‘ peaked in the top 5 spot; this show should have been like no other.
As the venue fills up, the DJ (mediocrely) spins US trap with UK drill and afroswing. Tottenham rapper Headie boasts four opening acts; by the time you’re feeling each set, the performance is over. The backing tracks are too loud and the mic’s a whole beat or three behind. The third act, singer-songwriter Br3nya, pauses her set due to sound difficulties, but in the 20 minutes she ultimately has, the west Londoner turns the place out. Stepping out in a cute monochrome bodysuit, she gets us feeling her afro-swing music – no mean feat, considering this is meant to be a drill show.
Br3nya’s set, though, proves something of a false dawn: the drill group OFB come out all hyped, the crowd ecstatic to see them live. Still lacking key member SJ due to incarceration, Bandokay and Double Lz rap to fan favourite Mad About Bars, before ultimately cutting their act short: the mics still aren’t synced up. The take a break to fix it, but when they returned, the delay’s worse than before.
At this point, the show is pretty much refundable. But that all changes when, under a cloak of darkness, we hear the beautiful harmonies of a choir, singing the opening to Headie’s ‘Music X Road’. The rapper, wearing a conductor’s costume, disrobes to reveal his shining silver tracksuit. It’s paired with brilliant white Air Force ones; he’s stays true to his trapper roots.
The crowd goes mad at the sight of their beloved Headie, the middle of the standing pit raging as he raps with fire and sparks around him. He and queen of the UK Stefflon Don reload their pop banger ‘Swerve’ three times (though it’s little awkward when she instructs the audience to “jump!” and few do anything of the kind). More big names come out to join Headie One onstage; Young T and Bugsey, Konan (of Krept and Konan) and Headie’s frequent collaborator RV. He and RV perform the infamous and career-changing ‘Know Better’, breathing more life into the crowd.
Having brought out all those big names, you might think there’s no way he’d invite superstar Skepta out for ‘Back To Basics’ – yet that’s precisely what happens. The two nonchalant north Londoners deliver a laidback performance of the track, before Headie’s segues into penultimate song ‘18HUNNA’ – and, sure enough, self-professed “crazy Eastender” Dave pops out with his stiff dance moves to assist.
Ending on the humongous tune ‘Both’, Headie One’s Brixton show ends on a high note. You might have expected a slicker show from this charting driller, but his ability to draw the big guns shows Headie’s steady ascendence.