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3rd May 2022

Live Review: Craig David at AO Arena

Theatre Editor Jay Darcy reviews Craig David at AO Arena, as part of his Hold That Thought Tour
Live Review: Craig David at AO Arena
Photo: Jay Darcy @ The Mancunion.

Craig David sat down with The Mancunion back in 2019, ahead of his 2020 UK tour. Well, you know what happened next…

At long last, the Hold That Thought Tour is here – a thought we held for two years – and, boy, was it worth the wait!

The concert featured two special guests, Lost Girl and Nippa. Nippa opened the concert at 7:30, though we arrived at 7:35, and he left the stage at 7:40. Maybe he started earlier than announced – if not, his set was criminally short. His music is not to my taste, but I can appreciate how great it is. Craig loves Nippa so much that he collaborated with him on the track ‘G Love’ – and brought Nippa back out to sing it with him.

Lost Girl had a lengthy set, which began with a medley of garage hits. She told us that she used to create such medleys on her YouTube channel before she was discovered. She then treated us to a selection of her original music – a mixture of rap, RNB and house. She was a dazzling diva, complete with a DJ and dancers. Her vocals were incredible – she gave Rihanna a run for her money with her cover of ‘Stay’ – and she had some of the best stage presence I’ve ever seen. She spoke candidly about how hard it is to “make it” in the music industry and even sang a song documenting her struggles. Safe to say, she’s one of the best opening acts I’ve ever seen, and I’m definitely going to give her a listen on Spotify.

Before Craig arrived, the stage was already set, with several palm trees (giving the illusion that we were in Ibiza for one of his TS5 parties) and a “22” neon sign (yet to be lit up) – the name of his upcoming studio album, for it’s 22 years since he had his debut. When Craig finally took to the stage, a giant moon descended from the sky. I’m not sure of its purpose – full moon party, perhaps – but it looked sick, so who cares? In all honesty, I was not expecting the set to be quite so spectacular.

Craig, too, looked super snazzy in his sequinned black tracksuit – a brilliant blend of smart and casual, showcasing his two sides – rivalled only by his sparkling sweat towards the end of the show, which glistened in the bright lights.

The crowd was very varied in age. Craig has two core groups of fans: people in their 30s and 40s, who grooved to him back in the day, and people in their 20s, who vibed to his comeback. He truly had one of the greatest comebacks of all time – after 7 years of no hits. He pleased both groups with his varied setlist that included his old tunes and songs from his comeback. The former included ‘Fill Me In’ (the third song of the setlist), ’16’ (the relatively new remix of ‘Fill Me In’, which closed the main set), and his signature song ‘7 Days’ (the final song of the encore).

Lots of his comeback songs were performed during his house-heavy TS5 DJ set – most definitely, the highlight of the night. The first half of the concert was lots of fun, but it didn’t really get going until TS5. Craig has incredible stage presence, and TS5 turned the arena into a ginormous club, the whole crowd on our feet, dancing to his countless bangers. He performed both covers and original music (such as his comeback single, ‘When the Baseline Drops’, and the relatively recent hit, ‘Really Love’).

His musicians and backing singers added to the excellence of the gig. They complimented his smooth, sexy voice and his vivacious stage presence.

I met Craig David a few years back – he is, without a doubt, one of the most charming celebrities I’ve had the pleasure of meeting – but this was my first seeing him perform. I’ve wanted to see him live for awhile – after all, he is one of my favourite artists (and he’s not even a guilty pleasure).

I knew the concert would be fun, but I was not expecting it to be as phenomenal as it was. He’s taking TS5 to Wile Out Festival (in Burnley, near where I’m from) this summer. I’m not a festival person, at all, but I might just suck it up and go because TS5 is some of the most fun I’ve ever had!

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected].

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