Craig David, Brighton Centre | reviews, news & interviews
Craig David, Brighton Centre
Craig David, Brighton Centre
UK garage pop comeback sensation sends Brighton doolally
Craig David’s two-hour show, in two parts, receives an ecstatic response in Brighton. The audience, dominated by women in their twenties, is loudly vocal in their appreciation, apparently knowing every word to every song on his six albums. It feels as if you might jump from the balcony, where I’m seated, and surf across the shimmying capacity crowd, buoyed up solely by the rising waves of love for this man.
The first half isn’t for me. David’s band arrive in darkness and warm things up with an intro, then he strolls on, bearded, in white sweats, singing the 2005 album track, “My Love Don’t Stop” to a fevered response of fan-shrieking. So it remains throughout with peak sing-along tumultuousness for the kitsch R&B ride that is his 17-year-old flamenco-flecked chart-topper “7 Days” (“Monday/Took her for a drink on Tuesday/We were making love by Wednesday/And on Thursday and Friday and Saturday...”).
David has a full band, with a male and a female backing singer and a keyboard-player who comes to the front for a very Eighties jazz-funk keytar solo. Two screens show David’s every hand gesture. He’s personable, playful even, using the whole stage length as he ploughs through tracks such as “Louder Than Words”, the cod-reggae number “Warm It Up” (in honour of his dad’s music), and various ballads, including “Rise and Fall” (which he wrote at 16 and, apparently, “changed so many people’s lives”).
Almost all the songs are “girl” this and “baby” that, with “love” all over everything. It’s soppily frothy, but how anyone with emotions developed beyond the age of 13 could regard it as persuasively romantic is mysterious. With all the irony doing the rounds these days, I wonder if everything’s gone meta. Is he the UK garage Lionel Ritchie?
The second half is better. The ghostly presences of Luther Vandross and Alexander O’Neal are exorcised, the stage stripped down to David and DJ decks, and he gives us his TS5 show, developed as a weekly party in his Miami pad. This consists of him playing pop-dance hits and singing over them, with the emphasis firmly on UK garage.
He opens with “Re-Rewind (The Crowd Says Bo Selecta)”, the song that caused him such torment when Leigh Francis’s TV sketch show made him a subject for playground mockery. David now has the last laugh, for those teenagers have grown up with him imprinted on their memory and are now here gathered. The TS5 set features an additional rack of ravey lights, alongside garagey edits of Whitney Houston’s “It’s Not Right But It’s OK”, DJ Luck & MC Neat’s “I’m Sorry”, Chaka Demus & Pliers' “Murder She Wrote”, and Robin S’s “Show Me Love”.
It's as if he’s examined club music from the last two decades and detoxified it, tweezering out all the underlying drug-hum and danger, turning it into a wedding disco (garage-style). It’s good clean fun – not necessarily always a welcome thing - and particularly explodes when grime MC Big Narstie wanders on, rather dazedly, to join in on their 2015 hit (and my favourite Craig David tune) “When The Bassline Drops”. David also later indulges in spectacular speed-rapping which certainly enhances this bubbling pop-dance stew.
Eventually the band come on for an extended version of his debut solo single “Fill Me In”. The whole place is by now on its feet, shuffling merrily. “Jesus Loves UK Garage” shouts a woman’s tee-shirt near me. Not only Jesus. It’s everyone here. They like it in its lightest, most R&B form. And so does their genial hero, the bizarre phenomenon that is Craig David.
Watch the video for "When The Bassline Drops"
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