A2 – The Blue Experience at KOKO

At first I was hesitant to write about this show because I wanted to completely relay it in my mind and nowhere else. Documenting things is important for the culture and to show those who come after us what happened during our time; but sometimes it’s better to live in the moment. However that would be a huge injustice to the people that didn’t manage to get tickets to the show and to A2 himself. I mean he sold out KOKO, a famous music venue in his hometown. That doesn’t happen every day, especially not for artists who have had to be patient for their chance to transition from SoundCloud gem to emerging hometown hero. I was fortunate enough to get tickets to A2’s ‘The Blue Experience’ and boy was it an experience. Let me walk you through what I saw that evening.

The location is a special one to me because I have witnessed two of my other favourite rappers rock the KOKO stage in immense fashion; Freddie Gibbs with his breath-taking flows and range, and Isaiah Rashad whose relatability and visceral pull almost made me tear up (no lies). So to learn that A2 from Croydon sold out KOKO made me proud of him and happy that people came to show out for him. Again, this doesn’t happen every day and it’s important to show the youth that people from a stones throw away are doing great things.

More time, you get opening acts or DJ’s that are absolute pony – I say pony because if I cuss the editor-in chief will pull my ears. But A2 made some calls and brought in some good energy in the shape of three opening acts that are all different but all represent my city. Thornton Heath’s Dotty kicked things off, to be so honest with you I could only make it there for the last two songs of his set but I’m happy that he is blowing up like this. He performed ‘Bless’ a new joint produced by Sokari and got a warm reception. It was only right given that the track is an actual, factual banger. It won’t be long before he does his own headline show once his upcoming project London Living: Collection of Sounds touches road. Look out for that one.

Tottenham singer Miraa May blessed the stage for a few songs, including a cover of SZA’s ‘The Weekend’ that was mashed with a C Biz tune. Can you even imagine? Her energy combined with Dotty’s to let newcomers to theirs and A2’s sound know what kind of energy was going to be on stage that evening. There would be hype moments for the guys and smooth joints for the babes in attendance. My word there were so many fine babes that came, I need to shake A2’s hand for bringing them out. I don’t even want to talk too much because I know certain people will read this but damn son LOL. Miraa blessed us with her airy vocals; don’t get me wrong this girl can really sing. But her vocals were so calming and smooth that I could really feel the crowd winding down.

Last but not least, French born and South London raised Octavian came to show out and raise the energy levels once again. He ran through tracks old and new including ‘Party Here’, the track that brought him to everyone’s attention once it touched Abdi TV’s twitter account. His woozy sung-rap style is infectious and his beat selection is solid. I hope to see big things from him in the coming months. He was a great warm up for what was about to follow.

Deuce finally blessed the stage a little after 9pm, at this point the weed smoke was unavoidable and Henny flowed like fine wine in the French Riviera. He and DJ Hacko started the show with ‘Marble Flaws’ the opening track from A2’s debut LP BLUE. “Caress my ego, stroke my imperfections” is one of the more memorable lines to kick off an album with, let alone a show but we’ll get into that shortly. Can I talk about the stage set up?! A2 really brought his whole bedroom to KOKO and it added to the experience. If you’ve watched his short film ‘Blue: Winter’s Only Winner’ then you would have recognised the stage set up from the opening scene. For me, this is a clever way of bringing a sense of continuity to the table.

The stage was adorned with hues of royal blue, gold and the odd flashes of green and purple lighting. It was like watching a visual homage to the many moods of the most elusive as he ran through his catalogue. ‘Mirrors’, Below Zero’, ‘Flowers x Patron’ were the songs selected to start with. A2 could easily have done a two hour set if you take into account the amount of projects dropped since 2012’s Hennessy Thoughts. By the time he performed the now infamous ‘Harley Quinne’, everyone was already HOC (ask Google). It was performed with the aforementioned blue backdrop as the room literally grew colder to reflect the mood and the crowd knew every single word, even the distorted vocals provided by She Who Shall Not Be Named (I used to love Harry Potter).

By the time he got into joints such as ‘Holograms’ and the reworked ‘Gold’, I felt like I wasn’t at a music gig, but a celebration of his achievements, of the journey he took to make it to that moment. There were so many familiar faces that I recognised, from girls hugging me and my own friends to some blasts from the pasts and people that I regularly see at shows. It was a party, an intimate party in a big building!

But my apologies, back to the show. His pacing and crowd interaction is awesome for someone that has only performed three times at his own headline shows. He looks like someone that is very comfortable on the stage, someone that needs no help at all. He rarely rapped or sung over his own vocals and if he did it was minimal. That is a crucial factor for me because I spend so much time berating artists for rapping over their own vocals and being lazy as it waters down the experience. Certain artists can get away with it because they’re not really artists in that respect but to transcend in your on stage performances, you have to critique every aspect of your stage prowess (or lack of) and see where you can level up. So I salute A2 for continuously working on his craft, it is easy to assume that it comes naturally to him.

For me, you can split the show into three sections (which conveniently intertwined with each other). The hype section, which does what it says on the tin. The section for feels, which also does what it says on the tin. And finally the pleasant surprises also known as the nice touches. But I’ll get into the feels section because that section was the most special for me.

The crowd was one with the vocals and the instrumentals as it was almost like a singalong. I had been to a show previously where the crowd were so overwhelming that the performer was rendered useless. That was Bryson Tiller’s first London show, which was underwhelming but I’m digressing too much. A2 pumped out joints such as ‘The Feel’ (my favourite off BLUE) and the aforementioned ‘Gold’. Then he took us back to More Sleep with ‘Holograms’, the song that brought him to everyone’s attention (you can make an argument for ‘Gold’) and then ‘Love Songs About Nobody’. At this point everybody and I mean everybody was singing at the top of their lungs in their feels. Even me, I was singing to a girl in the crowd and I was so faded at this point. But when he performs those kind of joints, everyone takes part. You could hear everyone singing, but he was still the focal point of the show.

Remember me mentioning the nice touches? Think of his friend and multi-disciplined artist Thea Gajic coming out to perform her spoken word outro on ‘From London With Love’. Think of Octavian coming out to perform an unreleased collaboration with A2 (it sounds so fire, please believe me). Even Fee Gonzales came out to jig when his homage joint ‘Promise AKA Fee Fee Flow’ started pumping out of the speakers. These moments made the show look like a family affair and it was; you could see his mummy on the top tier of the building. Honourable mentions for nice touches were hearing the crowd relay the lyrics of ‘X2 (Dble)’ and ‘Holograms’ back to A2. But wait! He performed ‘Pluto Interlude’ as well. I almost forgot  about that but it was a really nice touch as that is one of my favourite songs of his.

Now for the hype section. More or less every part of the show was hype, when he slowed it down I could hear girls screaming. When he sped it up, the guys were screaming, throwing drink everywhere and getting sucked into moshpits. That last one was mostly me but I’m digressing again! Where do I even begin? ‘Trade Places’, ‘ZZZ’, ‘Tell Me Freestyle’, ‘Southern Comfort’, ‘I Need’, ‘X2 (Dble)’, “Spooky Freestyle”. He played so many bangers that it would be easier to list the songs that he didn’t perform.

The energy was crazy and sometimes he turned it up at will when it was slowing down a bit too much. The pace of the show was perfect. Then he raised the temperature even more. He had been teasing ‘Flex’ an unreleased joint on his Instagram account. He saved the best for last and had all his team on the stage while champagne sprayed into the crowd. “Ghost mode for a sec, you won’t see me in the flesh, running through ‘em for the cheques, always drip never wet, tell the club I need the money upfront you won’t see me there for less”. I’ve never seen a crowd go crazy and be so responsive to new music before. Particularly for a track that hasn’t been released yet. But the show ended with a bang.

I had a whale of a time, every time I see him perform he gets better and better (six and counting) and hopefully now that he has got BLUE out of his system, chapter two will be an even better listening experience. My only gripes were that he wasn’t on stage for longer and that he didn’t run through enough of his back catalogue. He performed 22 joints in total including ‘Flex’ and the collab with Octavian but I really wanted to hear ‘Eden 1994’, ‘Honest’, ‘Honey Freestyle’ and ‘Coldest December’. But hopefully he’ll do a two hour show one day.

I shouldn’t really have any gripes, they’re just extra things that I could have done with. I say this because at £10.60 that show was worth my time and money; even if I paid triple that (I kinda did because I bought tickets for two friends). In my own words, that was The Blue Experience and I am looking forward to whatever A2 blesses us with next.
Words: @SamFloating

Written by /
Published /
March 9
Category /
Event Review