Dave at the O2 review: an intimate, vulnerable arena show from a born star – Evening Standard

Stormzy, AJ Tracey, Central Cee and more were all brought out, but it was Dave’s introverted moments that shone most brightly
t last month’s Brit Awards at The O2, Dave brought (literal) fire to the cavernous arena, stealing the show when he performed In The Fire while flames shot out of the end of his guitar. If that metaphor wasn’t strong enough for what to expect from his ensuing and long-awaited headline shows at the venue a few weeks later, the gigs then had to be rescheduled because the roof of the venue was blown off in Storm Eunice.
A series of pandemic-related delays and the aforementioned storm meant that Tuesday’s show was only Dave’s second headline arena show in his hometown (he also played the previous night). He’s been a star of the British rap scene for years though, and as such, the show felt like a long overdue coronation.
As many shows from artists embedded in such a strong community are, Dave’s gig was bolstered by his contemporaries. His usual sidekick Fredo made an early appearance for Funky Friday, before AJ Tracey joined Dave for Thiago Silva on a second stage in the middle of the crowd and then stuck around for a rendition of his own 2019 track Ladbroke Grove. Later on, rapper of the moment Central Cee joined the party to perform Day In The Life and seemed firmly at home on such a big stage, one he’ll surely command on his own soon enough.
Though this was the perfect opportunity for a celebratory party – and the set certainly packed a playful punch at times – the show’s main power came from its intimate, vulnerable moments. After just one song, Dave announced to the crowd: “I want to talk to you guys about a thing called fear.”
“I know how it feels to have anxiety and be in a room full of people and not know where to stand,” he later added, turning the often disconnected spectacle of an arena show into something that felt closer to a confessional chat over coffee.
Dave’s personal moment of overcoming fear came later in the set, when he strapped on his guitar – an instrument he only began to learn a matter of months ago – to play woozy James Blake collaboration Both Sides Of A Smile from 2021 album We’re All Alone In This Together. (He landed every note perfectly without a flinch, of course.)
Towards the end of the set, he then paid tribute to the late Jamal Edwards, telling his friend: “We’ll forever carry the torch and shine a light in your name.” After Stormzy came and went for an electrifying rendition of Crash, and Dave was faced with a final swell of richly deserved and overwhelming applause, he fell to his knees and cried in one final moment of vulnerability, capping off an arena show like no other.
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