Tinie Tempah – Nottingham Capital FM Arena, Friday November 11
Tinie Tempah has been here before, but never quite like this. Back in May 2010, a couple of months after debuting at Number One with his first single Pass Out, an unassuming young chap in a plain white T-shirt stepped onto the Capital FM Arena stage, armed with nothing more than a microphone and a backing track. Third on the bill to Pixie Lott and Rihanna, his likeable but basic four-song set gave little indication of the million-selling, Brit-winning, Glastonbury-rocking, arena-filling superstar that he was to become.
When he returned to town in February this year, for a sell-out appearance at Rock City, it already felt like he was too big for the venue. “Surely an arena tour beckons for Tempah now”, our reviewer predicted.
Following a massive summer on the national and international festival circuit, Tinie has been taking his first full-scale arena tour all around the UK this month. The night before Nottingham, he had played Wembley Arena , so perhaps our modest 9000-capacity venue was already starting to feel a little intimate.
He certainly had the sound system for a venue of twice the size, for even by Arena standards this was a loud one. Thunderous bass frequencies tore through the hall, making bowels quake and seats vibrate; not really a problem, as there was almost no one sitting in them after the first couple of minutes. But despite whacking the volume knob way past “11”, the sound mixers never compromised on clarity. When live rap does battle with muddy sound, the results can be horrendous, but the dynamics of this show would have put many rock acts to shame.
The star made his entrance in a flash of fireworks, emerging from the smoke in a black track suit with Spiderman-like blue stripes, his face still obscured by hood and shades. (The hood eventually came down, but the shades stayed on all night.) Tangles of fluorescent string adorned his back, as if he had been ambushed by a thousand party poppers.
The reaction in the hall was so intense, that the crowd never really recovered from it. From the opening bars of the first song to the final notes of the last encore, madness and mayhem reigned. Fists pumped the air, boots pummelled the floor, mosh pits formed and dissolved, and the screams gave even the turbo-charged sound system a run for its money.
Despite making the classic mistake of name-checking Derby at a Nottingham gig – “It’s all about love!”, he protested, as the boos rang out – Tinie delivered a flawless performance, combining a showman’s swagger with razor-sharp lyrical precision. Behind him, the band performed in cages made from tube lighting, which rose from the floor during Let Go and glowed blood-red during Obsession. The usual arena conventions were observed – the “left side, right side, who’s the loudest” pantomime, the acoustic section, the sudden re-appearance at the back of the hall – but Tinie’s Skype video call from Swedish House Mafia was a neat new trick, even if the chances of it actually happening in real-time felt slim. The call provided the cue for Miami 2 Ibiza – or rather “Notts 2 Ibiza”, as it was sung on the night – which sent energy levels to previously unimaginable new heights, putting whole new dimensions of “bang” into Swedish House Mafia’s club banger.
“These are the best days of our lives, whether we know it or not”, he told us, just before knocking us all dead with Written In The Stars. It was a fitting observation for a show that was all about cutting loose, letting go, living it up, and celebrating the moment.
Next time round, they’ll have to find a football stadium for him. And that probably won’t be big enough, either…
Set list: Intro, Simply Unstoppable, Frisky, Till I’m Gone, Wonderman, Illusion, Snap, Written In The Stars, Love Suicide, Invincible, Let Go, Obsession, Miami 2 Ibiza, Hitz, Mosh Pit, Earthquake, Pass Out.