Live Review: Stormzy @ Motorpoint Arena

Ali Glen reviews Stormzy's highly-anticipated performance at Nottingham's Motorpoint Arena.

Walking into the Motorpoint Arena, it is evident from the outset that there is a strong sense of anticipation amongst the young fanbase, gathered to see one of the defining cultural voices of their generation. The set curated by DJ Rachael Anson to warm the crowd up is littered with some of the biggest rap hits of the last few years, and, with seemingly every voice on the floor of the building reciting the words, the whole arena is at boiling point.

Then, as the first synths of Heavy is the Head’s opening track Big Michael hit, the screen at the back of the stage parts in two to reveal Stormzy standing on an elevated platform, and as he descends down onto the stage, he proves why he’s considered the calibre of artist to headline some of the show.

Throughout the show, Stormzy implores the crowd to give him energy, and they duly provide, keeping up with the London born rapper throughout Audacity and Know Me From. Although it is difficult to say that there have been many saving graces from shows being delayed throughout the pandemic, most people attending would agree that it was worth the wait, not least because it had provided them the opportunity to become word perfect with the 2019 album.

The extra time has also provided Stormzy and his creative team to turn this live show into a fine tuned performance that can fill the arenas that it's been headlining. In the song Crown, for instance, a giant crown, complete with golden lighting within it, descends from the rafters to encircle Stormzy in what proves to provide stunning imagery. Even in moments that aren’t intended to be such a centrepiece for the show, the visual interest is maintained, with pyrotechnics regularly featuring, impressive videos for each song being projected onto the back of the stage, and thrust staging being implemented to bring Stormzy closer to his audience.

Stormzy’s 12-person live band prove themselves to be some of the best in the business, moving through the track list with ease. It is a testament to the development of Stormzy’s music since his breakout that this is an impressive achievement, but the man formerly best known for being the breakout star of the UK’s grime scene in the mid-2010s has since incorporated elements of R&B and gospel into his game. It is in these moments where his backing vocalists get a chance to shine, with them having a change to take centre stage alongside Big Mike himself during One Second and Rainfall in particular.

''He comes across as a man genuinely taken aback by the level of support he has garnered''

Despite the maximalism of the concert’s production, Stormzy certainly has not lost an appreciation for his audience, at times being almost apologetic for interrupting the show to talk. When he does get his words out, he comes across as a man genuinely taken aback by the level of support he has garnered, particularly through the pandemic and being unable to tour Heavy is the Head upon its initial release. He rewards those who have come out to see him in a number of ways – first by unleashing a trio of smash hits to close the main stage: Clash (Stormzy’s track with fellow South London superstar Dave), Big For Your Boots, and Shut Up. Next, during the encore break, it is announced that anyone who bought a ticket for the show will have early access to a presale for his upcoming, albeit as yet untitled, third album.

To conclude the show, Stormzy, a devout Christian, plays gospel number Blinded By Your Grace, Pt. 2, before finishing with Heavy is the Head’s lead single and perhaps the grime artist’s biggest song to date, Vossi Bop, to uncontained excitement from the audience. What perhaps sums up Stormzy most as an artist, however, is how he comes down from the stage to take pictures with his fans, even holding a young boy in his arms for a photo before walking into the background. It ultimately shows, that even with his rise to stardom, he is still an artist that speaks as a voice for the younger generation. As he continues to fill up arenas, with his third album approaching, he proves himself to be a phenomenon that shows no signs of fading away.

Ali Glen


Edited by: Amrit Virdi

Featured image and in-article images and videos courtesy of Stormzy via Facebook and YouTube.