Tinie Tempah, O2 Arena, London


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The Independent Culture

I heard people close to Tinie Tempah talk passionately about how his appeal and personal qualities were part of a Britain that went beyond race, long before he had really broken through. The 22,000 around me at his first arena show are that universal audience, united in thrilling fervour as he's crowned a pop king.

Just in front of me, a young girl is winding to a flying V guitar solo on stage, while a mildly leery lad teaches a primary school-age girl here with her dad polite street gestures.

Dizzee Rascal made the first bold move into a landscape where British underground music – grime, dubstep, rap – could be remodelled as brazen mainstream pop. The music press who had always tacitly refused him cover stories because of the perceived truism that black faces cost sales were left with egg on theirs.

Tinie has forced Dizzee's bridgehead into a full-scale invasion on all fronts, becoming one of Britain's biggest international pop stars, when before his career began that would have seemed impossible.

"I started eating salad," Tinie jokes, of his preparations once his manager dared him to book the 02. Then his personal Jack Daniels shot-roadie appears so he can toast the moment, proud but not vain. He has obviously visualised it for some time, tipping out the stadium-show toybox. "These are the best days of our lives, whether we know it or not," he says before "Written in the Stars", reinforcing his optimism with fireworks and lasers. His band rise and sink in hydraulic cages, the guitarist parodies heavy metal moves, and "Snap" is loaded with equally cheesy 1980s-style synths. "From Miami 2 Ibiza" sees him supposedly satellite-link with Swedish House Mafia for some pounding club music, during which he gets the whole stadium to crouch then jump up, a children's game giving general pleasure.

A mid-set break for power ballads is a stadium staple too far, puncturing the crowd's energy. Tinie's magpie enthusiasm for the mainstream also leaves much of his music superficial. But it is a big sound, and he has a big heart.