Concert review: Stormzy uses his Heavy Is The Head tour to coronate himself as the king of UK rap

Stormzy during his set at Newcastle's Utilita Arena for his Heavy Is The Head tour.Stormzy during his set at Newcastle's Utilita Arena for his Heavy Is The Head tour.
Stormzy during his set at Newcastle's Utilita Arena for his Heavy Is The Head tour.
The South London superstar played the second night of his rescheduled UK tour in Newcastle’s Utilita Arena on Tuesday night.

“We’re still here” proclaims Stormzy, midway through his first headline set in Newcastle since April 2017.

That may not seem like much of a statement without the understanding that the majority of the crowd at the Utilita Arena on March 15 2022 held tickets labelled as September 11 2020.

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Album tours are usually an automatic process for acts as large as Stormzy. Arena after arena, night after night of newly released material, with connections between the audience and the songs performed yet to be created.

That is what makes post-Coronavirus album tours such a spectacular occasion. Stormzy’s second album, Heavy Is The Head, was released back in December 2019 and in that time the South London rapper used his second album’s tour to announce and promote a third.

While his fans were resonating with Heavy Is The Head, Stormzy himself was in the studio, shown by a short film between hits Shut Up and Blinded By Your Grace, Pt 2, the 19th and 20th songs in a remarkable setlist.

If the stage set of a large thorned crown wasn’t enough of a metaphor which came down to encircle the rapper’s head during Crown, a song from the second album, the tour itself gives Stormzy a chance to show the UK he is king of the nation's current scene.

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From opening track Big Michael through a turbocharged setlist to the full arena’s rendition of Vossi Bop, the quick, insightful and heavily delivered lyrics the rapper has become synonymous with were echoed back to him throughout the 90 minute set.

The run time, mixed with the 21 songs performed – in addition to three interludes, one of which being the third album announcement – forced Stormzy and his group of backing singers and band to quickly flow between tracks with the energy and delivery expected from one of the biggest names in UK music right now. It’s fair to say they exceeded any expectations.

Number One hits Vossi Bop and Own it are yelled back from a raucous crowd as much as album tracks and Clash, played with a voiceover from fellow artist Dave is met with such excitement you’d have thought Dave had made a sudden appearance.

The big name and big personality was matched with a stage presence the arena hasn’t seen for a long time. With each pace across the stage and onto the finger which edged out into the crowd, eyes across the capacity crowd remained glued.

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The additional fire cannons, sparkler effects and confetti, the latter of which helped to bring an end to the show, while not seeming unnecessary, didn’t add as much to the set as most acts who will hit the stage across 2022, but that is testament to Stormzy’s presence over the impact of the effects themselves.

Shut Up saw the headliner make a special connection with the crowd, pulling a Newcastle United shirt out from the front row, a further connection between artist and fanbase was made with Stormzy squeezing into the 2005-06 jersey to perform one of his best known tracks, and anyone at the show will hope that connection remains should a tour for album number three be announced.