As N-Dubz’s most outspoken member heads out on his first solo tour, there is more than a hint of padding, though it is to Costadinos ‘Dappy’ Contostavlos’s credit that he rarely lets energy levels drop.
While the rapper/vocalist admits, “I only have one song and a freestyle,” the Londoner is determined to constantly pump up the crowd.
He bounds on in dark shades and black beanie, replacing his trademark, usually colourful headwear. It suggests a grown-up, serious intent evolved from the pop-grime sound he developed with the successful r’n’b trio, yet already his notorious motor mouth has got him into trouble on this jaunt, dissing Simon Cowell’s show even though bandmate and cousin Tulisa was a judge. “Who won the X-Factor?” he asks tonight, before thinking better of that subject matter, instead offering the chance for a fan to come backstage.
Dappy is a competent rapper, capable of speedy flows where words run together over jackhammer beats and more measured, melodic fare. Here, the livewire performer reveals himself as a man of simple tastes: “high heels, short skirt and fake tan”, a recipe for lust that gets the “ladies” in the house shrieking all the more vehemently. They even enjoy the offer he makes to his mum on ‘Spaceship’ – “Would you like a facelift?”
Then it is back to who wants to meet Dappy after the show, win a T-shirt and sing loudest to a drawn-out medley of his main group’s effervescent party anthems – ‘Playing With Fire’, ‘Girls’ and ‘So Alive’ among them, only missing the rest of the group when Tulisa’s voice comes over the PA. It is all played out beneath searchlights, lasers and arena-strength pyrotechnics. Still, Dappy has his own number one to boast about, ‘No Regrets’, which comes jammed full of hooks and a pleasing rise in intensity at the end. Before that comes second solo single, ‘Rockstar’, due out next year, apparently with a cameo from Queen’s Brian May.
It follows the same format as Dappy’s first - slow verse and a high-pitched Auto-Tuned chorus impossible for him to replicate live. This comes with a melancholy piano figure that suggests some lingering dissatisfaction in his current life, bolstered by references to Brian Jones and Amy Winehouse, a vulnerability that endears him further to his audience. When he asks “Who’s coming to my arena tour?” after barely 35 minutes on stage, their screams suggest they definitely want more.