Zara Hedderman: 15 years ago, the prospect of going to a Craig David arena concert would not have been such a shocking occurrence. In a short space of time, he released several singles that dominated charts and clubs. Think of ‘Re-Rewind’, ‘What’s Your Flava?’ and ‘7 Days’; songs that proved instant hits. Infectious, if you will. Then Bo Selecta happened and essentially ended any credibility that David had as an artist. His music turned into a source of satire, the ridicule putting pause on his career and forced Craig to walk away from music and the troubles in his professional life. Today, somehow, Craig David has returned and is performing not in modest venues, but big arenas for his Following My Intuition tour.
Fellow State scribe Dave Hanratty and I were curious, naturally – it’s Craig David at the 3Arena! What kind of show could he possibly put on at this point of his career? Also, who goes to a Craig David show in 2017?
Dave ‘David’ Hanratty: Let the record show that Zara dragged me kicking and screaming to this event. First off, I think we can all agree that the Bo Selecta unpleasantness is both bizarre – is there another instance of a parody killing someone’s career stone dead? – and really a rather cruel joke that destroyed the confidence and self-esteem of what appears to be a genuinely nice chap. All that said, I’ve never bought into the Craig David ‘thing’, whether it’s the ironic nostalgia appeal or the laughable claims that he’s secretly this great underappreciated songwriter. So yeah, fair enough, I was curious to see what a Craig David arena show is all about in 2017. Turns out it’s mostly a DJ set.
ZH: Admittedly, I went to this gig with a lot of reservations. I thought that I would only know two, maybe three songs at most. When David (Craig, not Hanratty) took to the stage adorning a crisp white tracksuit and launched immediately into recent pop smash ‘Ain’t Giving Up’, the level of enthusiasm from both crowd and performer was palpable, to say the least. The tone of the evening was set; this was going to be a night of bangers. And so, I settled into the proceedings, trying to appreciate this show for what it intended to be; a night not to be taken too seriously. An evening of nostalgia. How could you not feel a little giddy when ‘What’s Your Flava?’ is the second song of the set and is promptly followed by ‘Fill Me In’?
DH: Zara’s relentless enthusiasm aside, this was an ambitiously terrible show. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time, but from a critical point of view? Awful. Everything felt flat and tame. Seriously, this was Childline Concert levels of polite. As noted, half of the show is a DJ set, a nod to his TS5 direction, in which Big Craig drops 10-second snippets of well-known cuts from Destiny’s Child, Kanye West, Ginuwine and many, many, many more superior tracks to his own material. I mean, this is fine in and of itself and gives you that knowing dopamine hit from time to time but seriously? On a big arena tour? Save that shit for The Wright Venue, dude. But hey, at least ‘Jump Around’ still pops the crowd in 2017.
ZH: I will agree with the Childline Concert tameness which was demonstrated through Craig censoring the rare moments of unsavory content in his lyrics. This was one of the strangest aspects of the show – more perplexing than the glitchy light effects or the bizarre near hour-long DJ set, oh, and let us not forget to mention Big Narstie’s cameo – that the audience was notably youthful. Most in attendance would have been far too young to have understood, or even been allowed to sing along to his lyrics the first time around. As Craig reiterated countless times throughout the set, he was so happy to see his music bring two generations together. The glue that brought the audience together was the inclusion of a cover of Justin Bieber’s ‘Love Yourself’ and of course, the moment everyone came to experience; ‘7 Days.’
DH: Oh yeah, Big Narstie and his never-ending supply of mix CDs (?) that he was hurling into the audience. Such charisma. ‘7 Days’ was fun, mostly because it’s a good song. The problem with the DJ set split is that it highlights – in garish, neon fashion – that Craig David only has a literal handful of big tunes to call upon and clearly lacks the confidence in the rest of his catalogue, or at least in the expectations of his audience. Speaking of, quite the strange mix with all ages catered for (it wasn’t just kids, Zara, you damned ageist) and a large contingent of fans who followed their intuition and crossed the water for the occasion. Weird. We should have done vox pops.
ZH: Once the songs that everyone came for were played the evening became a prolonged endeavour. There was only so much excitement someone could rouse for Whitney Houston’s ‘It’s Not Right But It’s Okay’, an apt song to sum up the experience as a whole. I wondered during the second half of the show how devoted Craig David fans felt that the setlist was compromised and that only a couple of tracks from his most recent album featured throughout the show. I would be annoyed and feel undercut. Then again, I am not a loyal fan. I’m only in it for the hits.
DH: So fickle.
ZH: To be fair, there is very little depth to his lyrics. His songs served their purpose of entertaining the crowd. Leaving the venue I was amused and happy to have been reminded of the hilarity of David’s repertoire.
DH: Hilarity, you say?
ZH: “In front of me, stood a beautiful honey with a beautiful body / She asked me for the time /I said it’d cost her name, a six-digit number and a date with me tomorrow at nine.” That’s funny, no?
DH: It’s pretty good.
ZH: Tell me, Dave. If Craig David were to come back in 15 years time to do another arena concert, would you attend?
DH: No, but thanks for bringing me along. It was fun, in its own unique way.
ZH: I suppose that’s what you call the ‘Rise & Fall’ of the second coming of Craig David. I’m done, I’m ‘Walking Away.’
DH: Can I go now?