You should never judge a book by its cover. When asking a client to the NEC for some entertaining I was bowled over when they picked Plan B. Now I love Plan B's soul album having fond memories of having it on my marathon training playlists couple of years ago, so I associate his uplifting soul with plodding round the streets of Sutton Coldfield, bright red with Blisters on my feet. But I would never have guessed Plan B was my clients cup of tea, and was incredibly pleasantly surprised. With corporate hospitality on offer, and a cracking meal we missed the first support, but got out to see Labyrinth. I am not particularly aware of his work but he did put on a good show, and after cheese and biscuits we came back to be amazed. So when Plan B entered the stage to a fanfare and backing films I was well prepared for a show, the one aspect of seeing a gig in a shed like the NEC, watching match stick performers is that a good show makes the size of venue worthwhile. The set was incredibly well utilised, it may sound trifling but a large box with projections became a pop corn tub and an inner city tower block. Very clever. As footballers say, this was a game of 2 halves, first was what I presume a 60's soul review must have felt like, sharp suits a cover and the best of the defamation of Strickland banks, great songs leaving the crowd on a real high, the band, all sharply dressed ran off stage to be replaced by a beat box artist.
How to explain the beat box artist, very impressive talent, taking all the skills of that chap from the Police Academy films and using them to represent songs the audience recognises. After an entertaining half time interval the Plan B and team were back, performing ill Manors with everyone dressed as 'urban youths' as the local news would have this. I hadn't heard this album before and wasn't expecting to love it quite as much as I did, this was one of the most emotional sets I have ever seen. Set to a back drop of pretty hard hitting films, including one where a youngster is goaded into killing someone, then vomiting, the songs were challenging.
The other aspect was the street theatre of Ill Manors (twice) with people from the audience 'hoodies' I believe they are called running on stage and looting the cardboard boxes which were TV sized. I loved this, it really brought the song to life and showed the show man Plan B is. In fact it was the first time in since the Eighties that I had seen a band do a song twice in a set, back to Transvision Vamp and I want you love at the Villa Leisure Centre.
So excusing the tongue in cheek references to Hoodies etc above, I got straight on ebay to buy his second album, perhaps a sign that not all lovers of the first CD loved the second when the got it home and popped it in the player. But music is a very personal and I find eclectic thing and Plan B is definitely one of my favourite artists to appear in the last few years.
and after Church, off to play footie in the park with his mates