Stormzy’s victory lap at WOO HAH! Festival proves instincts win every time

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Knockout blow after knockout blow from the Wicked Skengman in Tilburg

Stormzy has always been box office – even before his genre-defining Glastonbury moment a couple of weeks ago. Garnering unbelievable levels of attention for his music, his political stance and his man of the people mentality, it was only a matter of time before the rest of the world caught on.

Last night, he took on WOO HAH! Festival in Tilburg, Netherlands. Headlining the snipes main stage, he tops a Saturday (July 13) bill that earlier in the day saw performances from TDE’s Jay Rock, Goldlink and ‘No Type’ hitmakers Rae Sremmurd. Delivering what can best be described as an explosive outing made up of unbridled passion, high-octane energy and a shit load of fire, the Wicked Skengman’s second appearance at the festival is one the locals won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

Delivering knockout blow after knockout blow, Stormzy hits hard straight from the jump. “What you saying energy crew?” he asks on several occasions, before then firing off a banger like ‘Bad Boys’ or fan favourite ‘Big For Your Boots’. And just when you think he can’t hit any harder, he cocks back and lets loose a surprise haymaker with his own rendition of Lethal Bizzle’s ‘Fester Skank’. 

Championing British black music at every corner, Stormzy tells the Tilburg crowd that he wanted to show love to his brother Bizzle, as well as shout out all the other artists putting on for the UK, including Little Simz who watches on from the wings.

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Stormzy headlined the snipes stage at WOO HAH! Festival last night (Photo credit: Derek Bremner/NME)

Seemingly frustrated at the fact his in-ears have stopped working, Stormzy throws them to the corner of the stage and proceeds to tell the crowd: “We’re not letting technical difficulties stop the show.” And truth be told, he doesn’t really need them. As someone who came up rapping on council estates armed with nothing but his words and wit, he thrives on instincts and the rest of his set continues without a hitch.

Later, the big screens at WOO HAH! hone in on a fan frantically waving their Oyster Card. “I told you London was in the building,” Stormzy says, proudly nodding his head. A group of fans near the front then scream out that they’re from Croydon, prompting him to acknowledge South London.

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Stormzy put on for the UK in a big way in Tilburg (Photo credit: Derek Bremner/NME)

Elsewhere, Stormzy delivers an emotional performance of ‘Cigarettes & Cush’ – prior to which he tells the crowd, who are situated just 70 miles from Amsterdam, that “they’ll relate to this one more than most” – as well as his chart-topping ‘Vossi Bop’. Watching 30,000+ people leaning and bopping in unison is something you have to see to believe – what a moment.

There seems to be a little confusion amongst some of the Dutch crowd when the instrumental for Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ starts across the Beekse Bergen site. “This is an Ed Sheeran song, isn’t it?” one fan asks, obviously not familiar with the remix version featuring Stormzy. But after 30 seconds of turning around and looking at each other, they soon direct their attention to the stage, shrug their shoulders and sing along to the hook while taking in a verse they’ve not previously heard before.

Stormzy’s rise to power over the past five years has truly been a pleasure to witness. So when a rare pause in his set is met with what seems like a never-ending run of rapturous applause, there’s no escaping a proud tear or two. With British pride well and truly in effect, the whistles and cheers not only feel like a win for all those that came before the Croydon-born rapper — many of whom he highlighted during his Glastonbury headlining set a couple of weeks ago — it feels like a win for the nation, one that’s proud to celebrate its diversity and inspiring cultures.

If Glastonbury was Stormzy’s crowning moment, tonight was his victory lap.