27th November | O2 Academy
Photos: Naomi Williams
On the second night of his Big Bad Tour, Giggs stopped at The O2 Academy for a sold-out show. The show was part of a run leading up to a milestone moment at Wembley Arena.
Similar to recent British rap shows in the city from Dave, slowthai and Headie One, there was a real focus on providing energetic entertainment for the entire evening rather than just for the main set. The doors opened at 7pm and Giggs‘ tour DJ, Mr. S., took to the decks immediately to warm up the early arrivals. Even in these early minutes, everything was turned up to eleven, with the obvious objective of creating a party vibe.
We were then treated to no fewer than five support acts, making the evening feel like a mini-festival. Tiny Boost, Ambush Buzzworl, Ms Banks and Sneakbo took to the stage in quick succession, before former Radio 1 DJ Charlie Sloth had the task of taking the crowd’s energy levels up even higher in time for the main event.
It is beyond doubt that Giggs gave rap fans value for money with the supporting line-up alone and it’s commendable to see a headline artist give such consideration to the overall experience, rather than just their own set. Of course, a potential difficulty which could arise from demanding so much energy from your audience for two-and-a-half hours before you even arrive on stage is that they may have nothing left to give by the time you begin.
The UK rap artist’s entrance was indicated by the removal of curtains at the side of the stage to reveal backdrops of shops and a screen in the middle of the stage advertising hoax Giggs products. The stage set-up would arguably be understated in a bigger venue but it was very effective in the 1600 capacity O2 Academy, which infrequently has any kind of stage dressing at all.
Giggs’ arrival on stage was quiet and unassuming: he slowly, almost shyly, emerged from the wings as if he could be the next of the support acts rather than the headline artist overseeing the entire thing. There were a few false starts at the beginning from the DJ which threatened to derail the crowd’s liveliness that the revolving door of support artists had worked so hard to create and maintain.
The false starts were a forgotten memory by the time Giggs tore into opener, ‘Set It Off’ from his Big Bad LP, which dropped at the start of this year. His flow was clear and distinctive, with little to no reliance on hype men or backing vocals. By the second song, he was jumping into the air and commanding the watchful concertgoers to do the same; of course, they happily obliged.
As well as his own material, we were gifted with a selection of his well-known collaborations including P Money’s ‘Where and When’, Mr. Eazi’s ‘London Town’, Kano’s ‘3 Wheel-Ups’ and Drake’s ‘KMT’ all of which inspired word-for-word rap-a-longs.
Giggs had little to say and those hoping for some commentary on the Grime4Corbyn movement would have been disappointed. Instead, he blasted through 20+ tracks of essential hip-hop in a manner which left nobody in the room uncertain as to why he’s considered the landlord of UK rap music. The setlist was perfectly structured, with plenty of opportunities for us to take a step back and pay attention to an MC masterclass, in addition to the moments of mayhem, which the O2 Academy struggled to contain.
‘187’ got one of the biggest reactions of the evening and it was damn impressive for that to happen almost fifteen years into an artist’s career. He finished the set by taking us through a selection of his breakthrough classics, including ‘Look What The Cat Dragged In’ and ‘Talkin The Hardest’, which united the old-school Giggs fans and the newcomers.
All of the supporting artists piled back out for the encore of ‘Whippin Excursion’. There was a real sense of community created by bringing so much talent together for one show: it was like a rap circus with Giggs as the ringmaster.
See the video for ‘Dark Was The Case’ here: