A few years ago, it would seem like a silly suggestion that Craig David would be performing to a sold out crowd at the O2. It would have seemed unlikely he would have another number 1 album (but then they would have said the same about Rick Astley as well). Well, how times change. David has made of the most successful comebacks of this decade, going from years of mediocre success to his current popularity rivalling that of when he first came onto the scene in 1999. This isn’t lost on him – Rise and Fall is introduced as “predicting the next stage of my life” – and seeing him come on stage in an unmissable all-white outfit and beaming smile, it’s hard not to root for the guy and be glad he’s back. And it’s clear David is enjoying his moment.
While his music cannot be held up to be that of a great innovative artist, it has always been fun, smooth R&B which exists as escapism but without being generic and crass. A cheeky ice cream metaphor-ridden song like What’s Your Flava? could probably not be pulled off by anyone else. And it is with this song and massive singles such as last year’s Ain’t Giving Up , and his debut “Fill Me In” (which hit number 1 in the charts 17 years ago this year), that he chooses to open the show. Love him or loathe him, you cannot deny the man’s talent – his voice remains as strong as ever and on some songs even sounds better than on their studio counterparts. The first half played like a normal set and Craig hits all the bases -obligatory album tracks (Couldn’t Be Mine, Warm It Up), hit singles (Walking Away, 7 Days) and lesser known songs more for the hardcore fans (Don’t Love You No More – a criminally underrated tune if there ever was one). But it’s the second half where David really bring the party and mixes things up.
If his initial success was partily due to capturing the zeitgeist with regards to the then-emerging garage scene, then his success now could be said to be capturing the zeitgeist of nostalgia. David does this brilliantly by turning the show into a DJ set – the kind that he is becoming notorious for with. Old skool garage and house classics, early Noughties/90s R&B bangers and modern grime are spliced and changed with David mixing and freestyling over them (who knew a Still Dre//Walking Away mash-up could sound so good?) and the audience, who were predominantly, 25+ lapped it up. Show Me Love nearly brought the house down.
Mid-nostalgic frenzy, one clearly drunk lady said to me during A Little Bit Of Luck – “Do you remember this song when it first came out?” My answer was yes, a garagehead since nappies. That’s the beauty of Craig David music though – it spans generations, but still feels youthful and relevant. And my god, he puts on a fun show. It’s now strange to think that for many year he wasn’t popular, and hopefully this isn’t the case in the future. We need people like Craig David in music. If you want something quiet and reflective, go watch Radiohead. If you want to go crazy and dance all night long, Craig David is your man.