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Plan B

Windsor Hall, BIC

To employ the vernacular – I think he’d appreciate it – Ben Drew, aka Plan B, Planners, totally smashed it at the BIC. Smashed it to smithereens.

But first, a word about the defiant, House-proud flow of opening act Rudimental and the more disco-orientated delights of main support Labrinth. Had they been the extent of the bill few at the BIC would have felt short-changed – and both will surely headline arenas themselves in the near future. Instead though, they were merely appetisers for the main attraction.

And he more than lived up to the heightened expectations that inevitably follow such a spectacular cult crossover into the arena-filling mainstream. The Windsor Hall was packed wall to wall with youngsters, urchins, guttersnipes and dandies, but it also provided shelter for a significant number of grown adults in their 20s, 30s, even 40s and 50s, no doubt drawn by Plan B’s career redefining concept album/film, The Defamation of Strickland Banks. 

For the purposes of this setting, its appealing blend of classic soul, new wave hip hop and old school hard rock was retooled to accompany Drew’s film, The Deformation of Strickland Banks, which deconstructs the original hip hop opera and employs new footage to link its constituent videos.

And highly effective it is too, adding a new dimension not only to hits like the sublime Love Goes Down and She Said, but also adding extra scope to album tracks like Welcome To Hell.

Besuited and centre stage, it came as a surprise to note that as Strickland the diminutive Drew is not really the commanding presence his music would suggest. It's not that he's easy to ignore, it's just that the sheer scale of the show tends to overwhelm him, reinforcing the role of the film in creating what is a genuinely memorable live experience.

After a short interlude hosted by beatboxer extraordinaire Faith SFX, Drew comes back as Plan B to deliver the dark and disturbing rhetoric of Ill Manors. Impassioned, articulate, his furious flow delivers the album/film’s title track and later sacrifices none of its power to spit out a second performance during the encore, but as in the film the relentless march of misery – Drug Dealer, Play With Fire, Falling Down, Pity the Plight (complete with the mighty John Cooper Clark on film) – tends to drag the second half of the set down.

It makes the show’s third act, the extended encore, all the more telling. End Credits, the Chase and Status cut, gets a tender reading, along with a rockin’ Stay Too Long and that incendiary, bring the house down, revisit of Ill Manors.