I had completely forgotten that I was going to a gig for Example. The tickets, having been bought for my birthday in the height of summer, had been put away in a box somewhere. Even the process of moving back to University hadn’t unearthed them and it wasn’t until the week before the event that I found them again, hidden under the usual faffle that accumulates in my presence.
The next week came and we made it to Bournemouth in good time. I hadn’t been to the O2 Academy before and I had assumed it would be like other O2 venues- big, wide, arena-ish. However, arriving into the high street, I was pleasantly surprised to learn it was an old opera house, nested along the street between shops. Seeing the vast queue outside, the blue lighting crawling up the building and the many O2 people milling about, I could feel the pre-gig excitement starting. We snuck onto a shorter line which said O2 customers had “priority”. Whilst we waited, I looked over the queue, or should I say, horde of young teenagers eagerly sipping their energy drinks before the show. Ah to be young… (Although, looking at some of the outfits that were on display, maybe not so young.)
Going through the double doors we found ourselves walking down a hallway lined with mirrors. The green lighting and décor of the building gave a real sense of a London theatre. We decided to pop to the loo, or rather as Bass described them, “the metal coffins” before entering the main room. Stepping through more double doors, I was immediately wowed by the venue- it was certainly an old opera house, grand and open and the blue lighting sent my focus to the architecture on the ceiling. The idea that this had been a stage for many other gigs and artists just encouraged my excitement further.
We decided to head upstairs, where we proceeded to find the perfect spot against the barrier. Overlooking the crowd below, we were grateful to see some older faces in the audience filling out the space. Soon the lights dimmed and music was pumped into the atmosphere. Dizzie’s voice resonated against the old walls and I felt the bass (which had been exaggerated into a very deep, dirty tone) go through my chest. Various artists were combined with aspects of ska, dub and reggae beats and for a while I felt like I was at a nightclub (if you have ever been to Vee in Bournemouth, it’s a very similar atmosphere). When a remix of BoB’s “areoplanes” came through the speakers, I thought I was going to lose an eardrum to the screaming of young teenage girls. Claire and I couldn’t help but “farmer-spot”- the amount of checked shirts was unbelievable.
A sudden burst from the crowd welcomed Ed Sheeran onto the stage- and I was shouting extra loud with pride (Ed’s from my hometown.) His stage presence was remarkably like John Butler, performing with a “jig” to his step. ( When I spoke to him after the show, he agreed, saying how he loves Ocean). With a modest bravado, he talked to the eager fans on the front row and began his set with You and I. The next song, The City is one of his most famous. The entirety of the song is layered music of his guitar, him beat-boxing and singing acapella to create a three-way harmony. A signature style, Ed merges hip-hop beats with chilled out acoustic melodies. He made a slight hiccup, bashfully stood back and told the crowd how that was the “first time that’s happened- am I forgiven?” By the screams that erupted from the girls at the front I guessed a definite ‘yes’. Songs that followed were softer ones such as The A Team which had the crowd mellow and happy.
Putting down a beautifully blue guitar, he once again started singing acapella, layering different melodies. The crowd started clapping along, which Ed then proceeded to accompany with a slow beatbox. I recognized the strongest melody but it wasn’t until he reached the chorus that I realised he had merged his own song You Need Me, I Don’t Need You (a great little tune that will get you finding your rhythm) with Wayfaring Stranger. The blues element became stronger, bringing out some really nice harmonies. Ed then brought the song into a more reggae/hip-hop beat and pushed forward his rapping talents, combining Pass Out lyrics with his, spilling out words at remarkable speed that would challenge Tinie Tempah easily.
By now the atmosphere was climbing high and the next act came on. Devlin and his “crew” entered into the light and the front part ofthe crowd screamed once more. Reminding me of a young british Eminem/ N-Dubz, he has become one of the most exciting underground grime artists of 2010. Hailing from Dagenham, he’s made a huge impact in the industry. He and his MC delivered an energetic performance of lyrical hysteria. With tracks such as Brainwashed, Devlin hyped the crowd into a frenzy shouting “jump if you want dub”. The mix of dirty grime, hip-hop, and dub bass was surprisingly catchy, and music that was previously alien to me soon got me dancing. Like Ed, Devlin brought in popular chart artists into his remixes such as Katy B and Jason Derulo.
At this point, his MC, who was composing the crowd with surprising effect, asked “Where is the mosh? Where is the mosh?” I have to say, this was disappointing and more like an awkward play fight between hyper teenagers who were just annoying- not a real mosh pit, my friends. Either way, it showed the influence they had on the crowd. Towards the end of their set, they were accompanied on stage by a talented artist called Yasmine who performed the memorable track Runaway, a piece that seems highly biographical of the artist’s own personal journey into the business.
We were now ready for Example. The atmosphere was infectious, the crowd below thronged with anticipation and the bass was going straight through our bodies. After an incredibly long wait, the lights went down and a singular beeping could be heard. It sounded like a space launch, a countdown of some sort, and this only embellished the excitement further. In the low blue lighting we saw the DJ and two guitarists take to the stage and then, literally out of nowhere appeared Example. Originally from Fulham, the rapper is known for his bravado performances and although there was high energy and swagger in his step, he modestly thanked the crowd after every song. He began his set with his well known Won’t Go quietly– and it was like something had exploded in the crowd. Everything was full of energy, the crowd below was moving strongly and the familiar electronic beat surrounded our ears.
The guitarists seemed to dance about the stage, throwing their whole bodies into the strums in an Artic-monkey-esque way. Later on in the set I realised that they had distorted the guitar chords so they echoed a dubstep element to the music. To be honest, I got lost in all the craze and music that I didn’t realise what songs came next- all I knew was that this music got you dancing! Example himself was jumping around the stage, his animalistic figure commanding the crowd, and at one point I could hear a melody very similar to So Solid Crew’s 21 Seconds to Go. It felt like we were at a rave. Example himself kept commenting on it and told people to “take tomorrow off work, say you’re sick and rave with me!” At this point, bright lights shone up on the crowd’s now sweaty but euphoric faces and Example started singing Watch the Sun Come Up. One member was so enthusiastically “bopping” to the beat that he highly resembled a chicken. The song ended on a great siren sounding from the speakers and Example, thanking the crowd, disappeared off stage.
I think it would have turned to anarchy if he hadn’t come back on for an encore. To the loudest screams I think I’ve ever experienced, bar Reading Festival, Example came bounding back on stage. He finished the night with Last One Standing and the chart-hitting Kick start! Bass and I had spent the entire gig “washing the windows” to try and get a wave from Example- and finally, right at the end, we did! What a great ending to a night of energetic, diverse, superb music!