Live review: Plan B, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Academy, London
Friday 30 August 2013
Following an unhappy set warming up for Eminem’s headline slot at Slane Castle, Plan B returns to London in a promotional show to mark the arrival of 4G on O2. The corporate nature of the show is somewhat at odds with the mob-driven grit of "Ill Manors", with which Plan B - real name Ben Drew - made his name as the unlikely conscience of British pop.
As ticket-holders grab their free cocktails and chips, cameras swing overhead as the show is streamed live to big screens across the capital. While the perks of this high-budget affair include a grand stage of towering TV screens and full band, Plan B is caught splitting his attention between plays to the camera and the crowd. And he is unable to swear.
While Drew’s second album, 2010’s "The Defamation of Strickland Banks", re-routed his sound from gritty rap to to dancefloor-friendly pop-soul, most of the songs from "Ill Manors" tonight return to the earthy street wordplay and hip-hop of his debut. It arrives with flashing effects, a jumping hype-crew and movie clips as producer Labrinth is splashed across the tower block screens singing the hooks of Drew’s last single, "Playing With Fire".
Songs like "Drug Dealer" - a ballad about a crack baby turned uncompromising dealer, featuring the reggae intercessions of Zimbabwean vocalist, Takura Tendayi - make it hard for this show to remain light. "Ill Manors" uses rough cut, sample-heavy songs backed by scenes from the film: images of cocaine being cut, prostitution, youths on council estates and beatings. These scenes act more like a documentary than a glorification of Plan B’s perception of modern Britain but his commentary is lost amid a crowd grabbing free drinks and taking pictures.
Drew’s high-speed delivery and lyrical spits propel the show into impassioned bravado. “Where’s the moshpit?” Drew yells at the crowd during "Pieces", his collaboration with Chase and Status in which testosterone-driven drum’n’bass grates against his speeding snarls and guitar riffs.
Drew’s vocals can go from piercing whines to, as on 2006’s "Charmaine", incomprehensible raps. An encore of pop hits "Stay Too Long" and the title track from "Ill Manors" show that Plan B can gel his pop persona with social commentator but as the songs age, it’s more interesting to think about what this rapper-soul singer-actor-director will offer next.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food