Plan B – Nottingham Rock City, Wednesday October 6.
Adapting a classic soul template for the ears of a new generation has become one of pop music’s great traditions. Amy Winehouse did it in 2007; Duffy repeated the trick in 2008; and this year, to the surprise of those who had followed his early career as a hip hop artist, Plan B has successfully reinvented himself as a soul-based storyteller, scoring a chart-topping album (The Defamation of Strickland Banks) in the process.
Although a return to his hip hop roots is reportedly on the cards in the near future, the 26-year East Ender is sticking to his winning formula for now. Opening his 14-date autumn tour in Nottingham last night, Plan B took to the stage in a sharp suit and tie, fronting an equally slick looking band. Two diva-esque backing singers completed the line-up – although you might easily have missed them, tucked away in a dark corner and barely audible in the mix.
Instead of sticking to the narrative sequence of his album, which traces the arrest and wrongful imprisonment of his Strickland Banks character, Plan B shuffled the order of the tracks, interspersing them with older material and a couple of brand new songs. His 2006 single Mama (Loves a Crackhead) re-surfaced as a mash-up with the Hall and Oates classic, I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) – a cute enough rendition, although it did rather obscure the lyrical power of the original.
As for the new stuff, first night nerves forced a restart of Make Me Your Religion (“so new that I forgot the words!”), but the track proved to be an impassioned belter, which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the album. The same held true for Every Rule: a lothario’s lament, which cast Plan B as a “male slag”, imprisoned by his bad boy reputation.
The big hits were saved for the end of the set, led by an extended version of Prayin’ which switched from blaring soul to choppy reggae for its final section. As there was barely time for an encore (“the landlord’s chucking us out!”), the brilliant courtroom drama of She Said was followed almost immediately – and appropriately, given that we had passed the 10pm curfew – by a rip-roaring, no-holds-barred Stay Too Long. Red-faced from the exertion of his final, climactic rap, his suit jacket still neatly fastened and his tie not even fractionally askew, Plan B acknowledged our thundering ovation and scarpered.