Bass thumps hard down Albion Street, heralding the Leeds leg of the Raskit tour before we’ve even fallen within the floodlights of the venue. Jam-packed and heaving with fans of all ages, it’s a testament to the longevity of Dizzee Rascal’s career – grime-pioneer-turned-popstar-turned-grime-star-once-more, the crowd he unites is one that are all seeking different things from tonight’s setlist. But can he really please everyone?
First up is Donaeo, who fills the room despite the absurdly early set time of 7.15. His setup is minimal, but he has a back pocket full of familiar tunes that soon get the pints flying – cold cuts like ‘Black’ and ‘My Circle’ proving themselves to be serious hip-winders in a live setting. Of course, though it’s an outing of Giggs ‘Lock Doh’ (on which he features) that really gets things going. ‘Get them snapchats up!” he quips, greeted in kind by a sea of floating lights that illuminate right to the back of the venue. He may party like it’s 2005, but he knows exactly where his current demographic is at.
An hour after doors, and the sirens are coming. Swaggering onstage to a long drag of an airhorn, a grinning Dylan Walsh is immediately in his element. “Leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeds” he hollers, in that imitable London drawl that made us fall in love with him all those years ago. “Can you give me some…Space?” The beat drops, and the room is alive – no mean feat for a single that dropped mere months ago.
Heavy on new material, the energy levels start high – a mass of heaving bodies greet the likes of ‘Ghost’ and ‘Wot U Gonna Do?’ but the familiarity of each beat soon has us craving some sort of levity. The wit and wordplay is undeniable (especially on hilarious new track ‘Business Man’), but you sense that Dizzee craves more; “Leeds, is that all you got?”
Of course, there are still some legitimate bangers in his back catalogue. “Fix Up Look Sharp” hasn’t aged a day, ‘Jezebel’ takes us back to secondary school and “Bassline Junkie”, a dubious slice of Europop about as subtle as Piers Morgan’s opinions on Brexit, gets undoubtedly the biggest reaction of the night, clobbering you over the head with its ‘big, dirty, stinking bass’. But just as things are starting to liven up, we’re racing towards a 9.30 finish - rattling through ‘Dance Wiv Me’, ‘Holiday’ and ‘Bonkers’ as if contractually obliged, it feels oddly like an event of two halves, a wrestling match between 'artist' Dizzee, and chart-humping Rascal. Both vital parts of his character, much more work needs to be done to mesh the two together – without the cohesion, the gig never quite reaches the heights that the rapper is more than capable of.