‘You haven’t seen a show til you see me live’ says the Top Boy star and from start to finish, her show drips energy
Little Simz, EartH, Hackney ★★★★
Little Simz exits through the ladies. It’s telling, since her set at EartH is the capstone to a tour that, by her own admission, has left her rinsed, broken friendships, torn her away from her family and led her to question her career. And yet, as she wends past the women in the queue that snakes down the corridor, who whoop and thank her for the show, she’s obviously buzzing.
And rightly so. From start to finish, the show drips energy. Opening with a growling roll of bassy thunder, she almost breaks the sound system when she bursts on set with “Boss”. Her entrance alone lends credence to her claim that you “haven’t seen a show til you see me live”. If that weren’t enough, she raps it through a loudspeaker.
Heckling the crowd to get as pumped as she is, Little Simz is in control from the off. Or in her words, “a Boss in a fucking dress”.
It feels like a true homecoming. “God Bless Mary”, a homage to her long-suffering neighbour who put up with the sounds of her speakers and bedroom sessions beating through the wall, gets laughs of recognition. Her apology and thankfulness turn into an anthem of a magnitude louder than her practice could ever have been — not least when she gets everyone roaring “God bless Mary!”
The set is mainly tracks from her newest album, Grey Area, with some older numbers mixed in. Her bill from 2016’s Stillness in Wonderland (“One in Rotation”, “Bad to the Bone”) are songs she admits to being “really proud of”. She sings them from the heart, with feeling and vulnerability.
Other tracks which also take a contemplative tone feel slightly flat in comparison. “Her” feels nervously tight, as if she’s worried about letting emotion through. “Sherbet Sunset” has a touch of the mechanical until the end when Simz picks up a guitar and closes with eerie, disillusioned plucking. It’s as if touring has meant certain parts have grown skin and other bits been rubbed rawer. She’s not one to dissemble.
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But these are small criticisms. Tight, squared-off tracks like “Selfish” and “Offence” are propulsive big-hitters. “Pressure” drops hard with quick-fire spitting and arena-style lighting. Live keys and a raw rendition made electric by music somewhere between warped western ditty and alien synth lends “Venom” particular edge. “Flowers” loosens into a jazzed jam led by drums that suggests Little Simz’s looser, more conceptual side — which might well be due a comeback.
The stand-out hit is “101FM”. It pulls the teenage soundscape of video games, trashy radio and the lives of friends and loved ones into its playful, cheeky and knowingly nostalgic orbit. In building its myth it has slick drive and heart, a combination not shared by all the tracks, and which hopefully will be the jumping-off point for more. After all: “We’re loving it, you’re loving it.” THEARTSDESK.COM