Dave review – dark, deep and emotionally driven

Manchester Academy
With a No 1 debut album under his belt, the rapper puts his audience through the wringer in a mass catharsis

Twenty-year-old Brixton-born rapper Dave walks on stage and pours out his innermost feelings. After a while, the music quietens, leaving his words almost a capella, raw, wounded and alone: “I used to cry about my dad until my eyes burned … ” It’s dark, deep stuff that most young men his age would think twice about confiding to a friend, never mind sharing with 2,000 people. However, such relatable – and often political – lyrics combined with airplay and a Drake endorsement have taken Dave’s Psychodrama to No 1 last month. It’s one of the most critically acclaimed albums of recent times, but where the album is bleakly beautiful, the live experience is more of an emotionally driven party. When 2,000 voices unite to sing Streatham – about a traumatic youth – it feels like a mass catharsis.

The subject matter isn’t new, but the way Dave delivers it over inventive collages of sub bass and jazzy piano feels fresh. He seems to address each member of the audience individually and uses every inch of the stage for his little jigs and Cruyff turns. He is a great orator between songs, too. “I’ve always been about expressing a message to the people,” he says. Perhaps in a parallel universe he would have been a priest. He leads a euphoric celebration of Manchester’s diversity, but things never feel too preachy. “I want to get crazy too,” he insists.

At this level, it’s a pretty basic show – a DJ, decks, films and a giant skull – but he carries it for an hour. There’s no place in the setlist yet for the harrowing, 11-minute Lesley or the perhaps too painful Drama – about the impact of his brother’s life imprisonment for murder - but Black, which dissects the black experience from slavery to street life, is stunning. If he’d left it there, jaws would be on the floor, but he gets a fan on stage and ends with bangers Location, No Words and Funky Friday. Having put his flock through the emotional wringer, he seems to recognise the need to leave everybody feeling happy.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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