Having listened to Craig David as a child and watched his career fade into the abyss, it is a surprise to both you and I that I found myself attending his most recent tour at the O2 Academy. Who would have thought we would see the return of Craig David? In his own words, ‘that Miami thing was long, but I came back to the UK and everything changed’.
And change it did: his career has recently seen a resurgence in the last couple of years following a viral video in which he performed a remix of his hit ‘Fill Me In’ with Justin Bieber and Jack Ü’s ‘Where Are Ü Now’ on BBC Radio 1Xtra. Since then, his collaborations with DJ duo Blonde, a feature on KAYTRANADA’s debut and even a brand new album have seen him reclaim the hearts of the nation. However, his latest venture? Bringing his TS5 Ibiza pool party to UK shores.
I will be honest, it was not totally what I was expecting. While a DJ set is expected to include several songs, not just necessarily by the artist playing them on the decks, it seemed to lack a huge amount of Craig David which the evening had seemed to promise. Taking a pool party on tour is a tad different to your average O2 Academy booking, however it felt strange hearing a headline act play perhaps too many songs that were not his own, and worse, attempting to sing and rap his own lyrics onto the melodies of others far too many times when the original would have sufficed.
Some of his remixes worked, such as DJ Khaled’s ‘Wild Thoughts’ with ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ by Stardust which felt like a totally seamless combination; others fell flat. Attempting to remix mellow throwback hit ‘I’m Walking Away’ with Snoop Dogg’s ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ was one of several remixes that may sound good on paper, but perhaps didn’t come across as well in a live setting as it may have done in his studio. This track in particular was quite a jarring moment within the set list.
Given the length of the setlist and the lack of Craig David’s own music, I could have at times closed my eyes and had been at Stuesdays. Also, when you’re spending quite a bit of time wondering when the headline act will play another of his own songs, it can get a bit tiresome. He played several songs that wouldn’t go amiss on a club night, with the likes of Drake, Beyoncé, J Hus and TLC being remixed into one another, and the crowd were lapping it up.
Despite my criticisms, the academy turned into one massive dance floor for the evening, with each new song eliciting more and more shouts from the adoring crowd. When he whipped out his speed-rapping skills, it was impossible to hear him by the end of each line: the crowd were totally in awe.
The best parts of the evening, unsurprisingly, were the moments in which he played his own music. Opening the night with ‘When The Bassline Drops’ and his collaboration with Artful Dodger ‘Re-Rewind’ provided a juicy taster of what was to come, leaving us waiting in anticipation for the next Craig David hit. Even ‘What’s Your Flava?’, perhaps one of his most Marmite tracks, was an instant highlight of the evening, taking us back to 2002 when all we really knew about music would be what appeared on a Now! That’s What I Call Music selection of hits. However, considering the amount of songs included in the set, it was a shame to note the lack of appearance from his collaboration with KAYTRANADA, ‘Got It Good’, perhaps one of my favourite songs of last year. He left us waiting until the very end of the evening for perhaps his most popular track, ‘7 Days’, and with the opening bars, he was enveloped by the crowd’s roars. It was definitely worth the wait.
All in all, while perhaps including a few odd choices into his set list and not adding enough of his own ‘flava’ to it, an evening with Craig David behind the decks was a lot of fun. While I may not be flying out to Ibiza in a heartbeat to relive it all again, it brought summer back to a freezing cold Birmingham and made us all feel like we were poolside for a couple of hours. It was totally entertaining, but next time Craig, just play the hits: we much prefer those.
‘The Time Is Now’, the new album from Craig David, will be released on 26th January 2018.
[Originally written for Redbrick]
Image credit: The Independent