Dizzee Rascal | Pop review

Roundhouse, London

"Dizzee Rascal for prime minister, yeah?" As if to emphasise that he is more than just an east London grime MC these days, Rascal ended his first song of this show by booming out a soundbite from his interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight last year. If the Paxman encounter weren't proof that Rascal is mainstream now, three No 1 singles in 12 months make a pretty good argument – as did this Electric Proms set, which teamed him up with London's jazz-inclined Heritage Orchestra.

It turned out to be an inspired pairing, turning the evening into something more satisfying than anything Rascal would have achieved with just a DJ as back-up. Hip-hop shows are notoriously one-dimensional; this wasn't. It was close to amazing to hear these songs, which came from all four of his albums, not just as stark beats and electronics but as full-sized creations with flesh on their bones. The horns, strings and backing singers provided dramatic embellishment to Rascal's rapid-fire staccato rhyming.

Taking things to 11, there was also a rock band, complete with hairy guitarist banging out Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine riffs. That was apt, because Rascal had the swagger of a rock star. Whether bleak and menacing on Road Rage ("You don't want to see road rage" – indeed we don't), tutting about promiscuity on Jezebel or euphorically wriggling to the chart-topping Holiday, he was aflame with the same quality that makes rock's better frontmen so compelling.

By now, Dance Wiv Me and Bonkers, his other No 1s, must be all too familiar to him, but he saw them through, bringing even the back rows of the balcony to their feet. Dizzee Rascal for entertainment minister, perhaps?


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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