Tuesday 21 November 2017

Music Review: Tinie Tempah at the O2 Dublin

Tinie Tempah says he's been working on getting fitter
Tinie Tempah says he's been working on getting fitter
Ed Power

Ed Power

Tinie Tempah's first arena tour is a hair-dryer onslaught of positive thinking.

The 25-year-old London rapper (born Patrick Okogwu) makes several speeches about the importance of 'following your dreams' and expresses undying gratitude to those fans who have taken the time to obsess over his personal life. Should his music career ever come unstuck, he could surely earn a tidy living as a motivational speaker.

You suspect Tempah had to call on all his self-belief over the past two years, as his much awaited second album fell victim to repeated delays (not helped by the collapse of his record label).

Barely was the record, Demonstration, on the shelves than another set-back materialised, as he was forced to postpone a December enormo-dome jaunt after a promotional trip to Germany and Scandinavia gobbled up precious rehearsal time.

This raises the question as to how clunking the original show was because, at a strictly aesthetic level, the incarnation that rumbles into the O2 is underwhelming.

As the performance begins, the stage is obscured by what looks like a huge duvet.

It falls away to reveal Tempah atop a split-level structure, wearing a white vest and silver jacket that looks as if it is on loan from the Dr Who props department. Simultaneously grandiose and tacky, the overall effect is reminiscent of the set of a family TV programme – more Noel's House Party than NWA.

None of this is a reflection of his music, a brave stab at what might be called 'stadium rap'.

Aside from the shiny pecs he showcases as he whips his shirt off, the quality that sets Tempah apart from his British peers is his penchant for anthemic choruses of the sort usually associated with rock gushers such as Coldplay.

Seeing him strut back and forth, hands held high, it feels entirely appropriate that collaborators should include Emeli Sande, The Script and boy-band JLS.

Under the nominal ‘street' sheen, tunes such as Written In the Stars, Frisky and monster smash Pass Out confirm that Tinie is an old-school pop star rather than a relayer of gritty truths from the ghetto.

He is assisted by a second rhymer, with whom he enjoys several spirited back and forths, and by a somewhat overwrought backing band apparently under the impression they are auditioning for a Led Zeppelin tribute night (every song seems to start with the riff from Zeppelin's Kashmir).

The rapper himself is deeply likeable, with an ability to project both ego and humility.

Whether he will ever fulfil his oft-stated ambition of being 'as big as Jay -Z' is unclear.

But what this show lacks in whiz bang bling is more than compensated for by Tempah's boundless affability.

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