Music Critic Hannah Joint reviews Aitch’s Birmingham O2 Academy gig on the 17th October, describing him as having ‘an unshakeable and infectious energy and enthusiasm’

Written by Hannah Joint

Award winning British rap artist Aitch had the audience at O2 Academy Birmingham wrapped around his finger on Monday evening as his cheeky, playful persona commanded the attention of every person in the room. Off the back of his recent album release, Close to Home, Aitch is travelling all over the UK and Ireland and leaving his mark as he goes. Performing at the O2 Academy, a venue with a capacity for only a couple thousand people, was a genius move for the Manchester-born rapper as it allowed him to fully reach his potential and control the energy of the entire room. It was refreshing to watch an artist relish in the intimacy of such a venue.

The buzzing excitement of the audience was prevalent before even entering the venue as the queue to get in was seemingly endless, wrapping into the streets behind the O2 Academy and yet everybody all the way to the very back was in high spirits. Once inside, young up and coming Mancunian rapper Tays performed a short set, successfully warming up the crowd for the main event. Coining himself ‘the fresh prince of Moston’ (Aitch’s birthplace) in his most popular song ‘Perfect Girl’ he was the ideal choice of opener for Aitch who is taking the young rapper under his wing as Tays follows in his footsteps.

Then, the crowd came alive with anticipation as they sang along to the rather surprising mix of female dominated Pop and R&B hits, such as Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’ and TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’ alongside the less surprising recent Rap songs, both from the UK and the US scene. Although the playlist was not what I was expecting to hear in the run up to Aitch’s big stage entrance, the crowd was relentless and sang along to each and every word, proving that the DJs know the exact demographic in the audience and all the secrets to entertaining them.

The rapper transfixed every member of the sold out audience, despite being a solo performer

As the stage darkened, the lights started flashing and the distinct opening beat of Aitch’s lead single from his EP AitcH2O, ‘Taste (Make it Shake)’ filled the room, a sea of phones shot up in the air hoping to catch the first glimpse as the man of the hour came bounding onto the stage. The rapper transfixed every member of the sold out audience, despite being a solo performer, his stage presence was unmatched from the offset. He proved to be a master of crowd engagement as he made sure to greet every section of the venue, right down to those who were chilling by the bar, stating that if he were attending his own gig, that is where he would be.

His energy was unshakeable and his enthusiasm infectious as he continued into his next few hits, notably performing ‘Louis Vuitton’, the second track off his new album, decked out head to toe in a tracksuit from the high-end brand, with Vuitton plastered in bold across his chest. Over the course of the next few songs, there was not a moment when Aitch was not on the move, dancing and moving from side to side across the small stage to ensure that his confident, larger than life presence filled the entire room.

His passion for performing was difficult to miss, it is clear that Aitch thrives off the energy of the audience and he was made to entertain. He genuinely looked to be having fun on stage, interacting with the people in the venue, pointing out fans who hadn’t missed a single lyric and at one point even asking somebody in the crowd whether they could guess his middle name. It was no shock that he needed a brief interval, during which Birmingham born rapper M1llionz took to the stage surprising his hometown crowd, performing hits like ‘Lagga’ and ‘B1llionz’.

His passion for performing was difficult to miss, it is clear that Aitch thrives off the energy of the audience and he was made to entertain.

The set list was a variety of hits, both from his new album and his old EPs, as well as notable singles and collaborations such as ‘UFO’, ‘War’ and ‘Rain’. However, after looking at the expected setlist prior to the show, there was one tune that I was not expecting to hear. As the sound of Ed Sheeran singing ‘Jet plane headed up to the sky’ rung out across the venue, it took me a couple of seconds before remembering who arguably Birmingham’s most famous rapper is, Jaykae. Known for his strong Brummy accent, contrasting Aitch’s strong Mancunian one, the pair set the stage alight performing the ‘Take Me Back to London’ remix. The witty wordplay and pride for the city that they were performing in was evident, especially upon hearing Jaykae’s “Birmingham, 0121, stand up!”

The highlight of the night was of course the iconic move that Aitch has adopted over the course of his travels across the UK on this tour. Just before the first few bars of ‘Buss Down’ begin, giving the audience warning so everybody has time to get their phones out, the rapper does a spin accompanied by a mic flip. A move that he is obviously very proud of if the smirk has anything to say about it. The night was brought to a close as Aitch finished with the lead single off his debut album, ‘Baby’ bragging that he succeeded in his mission to turn the O2 Academy Birmingham into a choir by the end of the show.

Enjoyed this? You might also enjoy:

Live Review: Maxïmo Park

Live Review: The Big Moon

Live Review: Bright Eyes