Plan B, Great Suffolk Street Warehouse, London
Tuesday 24 July 2012
“If you don’t believe in something, then you’ll fall for anything,” Plan B snarls on the forlorn “Lost My Way”, and the solemn 28-year-old rapper is big on “belief”. However, we get precious little actual dialogue tonight at this desperately hip album launch, with almost certainly the poshest soap of any venue toilet in London.
Plan B (actual name Ben Drew) is a serious artist, who is very keen on the concept album. His breakthrough second record, The Defamation of Strickland Banks told the story of a wayward soul singer who is wrongly convicted for rape and finds some sort of redemption. It’s a compelling and cinematic record that shows off Plan B’s sweet (but perilously close to Charles & Eddie) soul voice. It also sold over a million records.
The latest slice of concept is Ill Manors, which charts a youngster becoming embroiled in the local drugs trade. On this, Plan B raps about prostitutes on heroin and racist assaults and the record dominates tonight’s fleeting experience, which takes place in a London warehouse reminiscent of Arthur Daley’s lock up.
There’s an awful lot of swaggering, posturing and flashing lights on stage, but Drew doesn’t really feel like the voice of a generation here. Public Enemy’s Chuck D had the good grace to provide a lucid, impassioned preamble before his most incendiary songs, Plan B provides nothing. No explanation. No show. It’s not really a show. And hip-hop music often needs some show.
Unlike fellow rappers and chroniclers of urban life, Mike Skinner and Jamie T, Drew’s tracks also lack wit, which is fine but his “protest” songs need to be exceptionally good to compensate. The highlight tonight is the feverish “Ill Manors” (the same name as Drew’s bleak debut film, which is distractingly screened on a wall throughout the performance), which is a (sort of) protest song (a rare thing in a market dominated by electro-pop and soppy pop) in which the Forest Gate-born singer protests “Oi there’s a chav/ That means council house and violent/ He’s got a hoodie on give him a hug/ On second thoughts don’t wanna get mugged”. It’s by a country mile the most robust track at this estranging gig.
However, there are some memorable guest spots, particularly from the punk poet John Cooper Clarke performing “Pity the Plight of Young Fellows” and Chase and Status’ Takura Tendayi’s brief turn on the exceptional “Drug Dealer”. A fluctuating experience then, much like Plan B’s career thus far, and you suspect the best is yet to come from this hugely talented artist.
game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers
North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Lucy Hawking: Stephen Hawking's daughter writes impassioned open letter to Katie Hopkins about rights of disabled people
- 2 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 3 Russell Brand backs Ed Miliband: 'You gotta vote Labour'
- 4 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 5 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
X-Men Apocalypse: First look at Jubilee and Jean Grey played by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner
American Horror Story: Hotel Angela Bassett set to make 'lots of trouble' with Lady Gaga in season 5
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 4 - review: Sansa is in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
May the Fourth Be With You: The internet celebrates Star Wars Day with new Twitter symbols and memes
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
Andy McSmith's Sketch: Feisty audience is the real star of an enlightening show