It was 6 September when I sat back at 12AM, turned on the newly released ‘AitcH20’ album, and was blown away by the lyrical ingenuity of the (then) 19-year-old Manchester-based grime star. 767 words later, I released my thoughts for the Courier’s readers to have a gander at, and thought that would be the end of it. However, after being informed that I could see Aitch perform at the Students' Union, I couldn’t believe my luck. I’d be able to see if my positive words would stand up to his onstage performance.
In short, he exceeded my expectations.
My initial reaction, when turning the corner to the SU, was just how big the line was. With doors opening at 7pm, I thought I’d be a tactical mastermind, and show up at half-past with the hopes of moving straight in. This wasn’t the case, as the line spread across the campus, doing wonders for my pre-gig nerves.
After waiting an extra half an hour, in what felt underwater due to a typical showing of that infamous Newcastle weather, we arrived at the venue, being exposed to a variety of pre-show DJs and hype men. The likes of ZieZie and JAY1 made an appearance, to the crowd's delight, and they put on a cracking show, leaving the crowd balanced between feeling satisfied, but also wanting more.
Rather sporadically, the lights dimmed, and a member of the onstage posses announced Aitch’s imminent arrival. The crowd obviously loved this news, as everyone waved their phones in the air. However, there were so many phones that I barely saw Aitch rock up on the stage, which was bittersweet: I didn’t get to snap a good photo myself, but the number of others getting photos was a testament to the influence he has on our younger generation.
After his expected introduction song, ‘Intro’, Aitch got the crowd pumped with one of his most recent singles, ‘What’s Next’, with the audience erupting in a variety of mosh pits across the venue. That brought a real buzz and vibe to his performance, and I’m sure that afterwards a lot of people were desperate to know: ‘What’s Next?’
After a couple of his older hits, such as ‘Straight Rhymez’ and ‘Kenny Allstar’, he unleashed a few more of his more recent records, off of his album ‘AitcH20’. These ranged from ‘Already’, a more conventional Aitch tune which blended a harsh bass rhythm and narratives of sexual intercourse, to the more mellow vibes of ‘2 Gs’ and ‘Aeroplane Mode’, two songs for me which highlights his diversity and how, while having sexual undertones, he can stray away from his conventional narratives and talk about his private life.
(I discussed this in my initial review of the album, which can be found here: https://www.thecourieronline.co.uk/aitch20-album-review/)
“However, as the gig neared to an end, Aitch ensured that the crowd would be happy, as he released banger after banger after banger.”
The Ed Sheeran and Stormzy collaborative effort, ‘Take Me Back To London’, kick-started a setlist which saw ‘Strike a Pose’, ‘Buss Down’, ‘Taste (Make It Shake)’ and ‘Keisha & Becky’, all instant classics which implemented his status in the Grime scene.
After teasing the crowd in his typical cheeky nature, stating “I’m just gonna head off for 5 mins and you can decide if you want me back”, he came back quick as a flash, to see the crowd off with his hit record ‘Wait’. Ironic in that he both made us ‘wait’ for his encore, and also left us waiting for more as the gig drew to a close.
Taking a look at his on-stage presence, Aitch certainly brought his ‘cheeky’ attitude, often talking to the crowd, encouraging us to sing “Oi, Oi, Oi!” in reply to his “Ole, Ole, Ole”, and even singing happy birthday to someone in the crowd, certainly making her night even more special.
And that’s something which I really took away from the gig. Aitch is one of the more down to earth people that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing live. Whether that being a result of his age, as while being such a big hit he’s still on the periphery of a huge career, or simply just his home-town roots of Manchester rubbing off on him, he seemed like a genuinely humble person, often thanking Newcastle at every opportunity he got.
On behalf of Newcastle: cheers, Aitch! We’ll see you next time...