Dave rises to the 'voice of a generation' challenge at a patched-up O2 Arena – The Telegraph

The south London rapper is enjoying a triumphant homecoming with a set that moves tidily along and reprises some of his Brits performance
Just over a week ago, high winds in London shredded the O2 Arena’s bulbous white roof. As a result, the two-date headline run for Dave, the chart-topping British rapper, was bumped out. Taking to the stage belatedly last night, for the first of those rescheduled gigs, he wasn’t shy to reach for the low-hanging fruit: “I know Storm Eunice took the roof off the O2,” he said, with a grin that rarely left his face all evening, “but how about we take it off again?”
The 20,000-strong sell-out crowd was more than obliging. Dave’s triumph on the night – a homecoming spectacle midway into a 36-date tour of Britain, America and Europe – was almost as inevitable as the punchline, as the south Londoner coursed through deft, danceable rap and Afrobeat hits from last year’s number one album, We’re All Alone In This Together, and 2019’s Mercury Prize-winner, Psychodrama.
Along with his gold- and platinum-selling albums, Dave, whose full name is David Orobosa Omoregie, has shown silver-screen ambitions, most notably appearing in Netflix’s 2019 reboot of the crime drama, Top Boy. He’s picked up a thing or two from his new friends in the TV business, structuring his live show in three acts, from the moody scene-setter Streatham, through an explosive mid-section that sees our hero pop up on a riser in the middle of the crowd to blister through the 2016 grime anthem Thiago Silva with his fellow rapper AJ Tracey, before the closing bombast of In The Fire – for which Dave is joined by peers Fredo, Meekz, Ghetts and Giggs, just as he was for his flamethrower-guitar-wielding Brits appearance earlier in the month. Last night, a twist of sorts brought the biggest shrieks of the night, as Stormzy bounded out for the sultry braggadocio of Clash.
It helps that Dave knows how to set a scene. He tells a story of his mother, a nurse, spending every penny of a month’s wages on his first piano, worth £400, one Christmas when he was a teenager. Here at the O2, stroking the keys as he prepped the audience for a mass sing-along of Twenty To One, he said it felt like being in his old bedroom, just more spacious. (Mum was listening from the wings.)
Dave has shouldered the “voice-of-a-generation” tag given to him. His songs unpick heavy subjects such as racism, immigration, policing, depression and anxiety, but without overburdening his audience. He has a poise and turn of phrase that makes the complex clearer, the difficult a little more manageable. Before last night’s show hit its explosive climax, he paused. The lights went down, and a photo of Jamal Edwards – the founder of the influential channel SB.TV, who passed away aged 31 last week, and had given a start to countless artists including Ed Sheeran, Stormzy and Dave himself – lit up the stage from the arena’s huge displays.
“Jamal Edwards is the reason I’m standing in front of you guys here today,” said Dave, as archive clips from the channel played behind him. “Jamal, I love you, I love you, I love you, and I hope this next song makes you proud.” The gospel choir intro of In The Fire kicked in, and three generations of British MC talent – each owing their own thanks to Edwards – burst through their verses while Dave ripped a guitar solo. The O2’s roof remains in tatters.
Touring until March 7, then abroad. Info: santandave.com
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