Gig Review: Dizzee Rascal at Motorpoint Arena

Words: Liam Macgregor-Hastie
Photos: Vawn Humphrey-Wilson
Monday 16 October 2023
reading time: min, words

Signalling a return to some of his most gritty, raw, and abrasive sounds, Mercury Prize winner Dizzee Rascal goes back to basics on his twenty-year anniversary tour of Boy in Da Corner...


The twenty-year anniversary tour of Boy in Da Corner was always going to promise a return to some of Dizzee’s most gritty, raw and abrasive sounds. When they were conceived, I don’t think many would’ve imagined that they would one day be played in arenas all across the world. I couldn’t have imagined hearing Sittin Here or Jezebel being cast across a sea of adoring fans of all ages in a 10,000 capacity stadium. These are tracks that were designed to be listened to on tinny iPod earphones while you sit on the top deck of a late night bus pondering the dark realities of early-2000’s society. Even tracks like Stop Dat or I Luv U, whose whiplashing snares, distorted basslines and harsh, adolescent vocals belong in the intimate and physical setting of an underground club at 2am. More than anything, I was curious to hear how these tracks, which won the Mercury Prize in 2003, would sound at the Motorpoint.

Wandering around town that afternoon, I noticed the streets dotted with what would soon enough amalgamate into the crowd at the gig. To my surprise, it was far more diverse than I expected it to be. Hen do-like groups of women wearing custom made T-shirts with favourite lyrics on them. Pockets of tracksuit-wielding Year Five’s being embarrassingly accompanied by their jovial parents. Dolled-up guys and gals who looked like they’d be heading straight for a night out at Pryzm after the gig. And, of course, the unmissable ageing Hip-Hop heads and aficionados who were there and bought the record (or downloaded the mp3 from Limewire) when it first came out but now happily resign themselves to tapping their feet from the seated sections. It was a festival that brought together the most unlikely of demographics under one big roof. It was a testament to the breadth and scope of Dizzee Rascal’s twenty-year career.


Lights out. The sound of Undertaker-style church bells gave way to the beautifully melancholy and haunting melody of Sittin Here. I lost it. This was a beat that has accompanied many like myself in moments of dark introspection and, perhaps, acknowledgement of one’s own shadow. It felt strange to start an arena show with this track. Jarring and yet captivating. Just like on the album, it was followed by Stop Dat and I Luv U. Incredible. The mosh pit was in full effect and I was beginning to wonder whether he was going to play the entire album front to back. After two more tracks from Boy in Da Corner, it was clear that he was losing energy. A fault of his ground-breaking debut album is that it climaxes early, starting off with its four best tracks and dwindles somewhat thereafter. Certainly, you could see the younger crowds of gals flocking away from the stage and towards the bar, bathrooms or Juul area.

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Even though I was hyped to be hearing his debut LP, live in the flesh, I knew that he simply had to bring in the bangers to keep this crowd alive. Of course, the man is a pro and he knew what he was doing. Fix Up Look Sharp, Jus’ A Rascal, Bassline Junkie, Sirens, Old Skool, Dirtee Cash, You’ve Got the Dirtee Love. The guy has tunes. Big ones too. Within the space of 20 minutes he had the crowd in a frenzy. Heck, I was in a frenzy. It didn’t hurt that I had consumed about six of the Motorpoint Arena’s finest, overpriced Rum n’ Cokes. By the time Dance Wiv’ Me and Holiday came on, I was having an outer body experience. Or better, a fully-embodied one. How was he going to end it? We all knew what was coming. B-B-B-B-B-B-B…. Do I even need to say the word? Sigh… Bonkers. Euphoria. The entire stadium was up on its feet and bouncing. I was turning around to the strangers behind me and high-fiving them. I was turning to those under me and apologising for spilling my drink on their hoodies. It was a celebration. Dare I say, a celebration of Britishness.

It was the intergenerational and intercultural appeal that Dizzee has that made the concert exceed my expectations. Enough to appeal to all walks of life and to keep us on our toes for two hours. Incredible to think this has all come out of a short twenty-year career which is still in full swing.

Dizzee Rascal performed at Motorpoint Arena on 6 October 2023.

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