Craig David radiated circuit-melting levels of charm as he marked the (slightly belated) 20th anniversary of his debut album with a winningly cheesy live stream concert.
David’s playful magnetism proved a major plus during this track-by-track reprise of Born to Do It, an instant chart-topper in August 2000. Where many artists struggle to adapt to the stilted format of performing without an crowd, David spent the evening throwing big puppy-dog eyes while leaning in so close you could almost smell his aftershave.
He had also brought along his own mini-audience in the form of a sprawling band. With a backing vocalist strutting joyfully and his guitarist showcasing dazzling licks and an even more dazzling smile, the party vibes were infectious. David, now 40, and his crew weren’t simply recreating Born to Do It – they were reliving in real-time the youthful emotions captured on this landmark moment for UK Garage.
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That enthusiasm went a long way towards patching over the project’s undeniable flaws. If the rhythms and the melodies have weathered the decades effortlessly, David’s lyrics were more obviously “of their time”. They were all about portraying David as the ultimate lover-man.
All these years on, however, the wordplay sometimes stumbled into unintentional comedy. “Rendezvous” found him “getting jiggy just for fun”. And on “Fill Me In (Part 2)” (a bonus track for on the US reissue) he promised “I’ll be all over your body / like chocolate over a Turkish delight”.
David’s career infamously suffered a wobble when he was cruelly lampooned by sketch comedy Bo’ Selecta! The racism baked into Leigh Francis’ caricature was glossed over at the time. But last year Francis delivered a tearful apology for his offensive stereotyping of David, Mel B and Trisha Goddard.
David had long since moved on, having revealed that he and Francis once had a reconciliatory hug at a wedding. And anyway the singer has had the final chuckle thanks to a streak of renewed success that culminated in 2018’s The Time Is Now LP charting at No 2.
The confidence that his comeback has brought was on blistering display as he romped through Born to Do It. His best-loved hits remained bullet-proof. “Walking Away” was a jet-propelled power ballad, “7 Days” a doe-eyed banger that welded an irresistible groove to Craig’s sensitive lover persona.
Bringing down the curtains was “Re-Wind”, his break-out collaboration with duo Artful Dodger and a masterclass in turbo-charged charisma.
There was one final treat at the end as he skipped through a medley of the entire record – a sort of edited highlights of the performance we had just enjoyed. It was the perfect sign-off to a gig that, even when verging on ridiculous, was never less than sublime.
Streaming to 29 May, stabal.com