Cinematic show airs Ben's unique performance concept
Plymouth Pavilions, Tuesday
Sometimes it's the least expected that shines the brightest. Running late, I hurried into the Pavilions auditorium just in the nick of time to catch rising star singer songwriter and rapper Labrinth launch into rendition of his number one ballad Beneath Your Beautiful.
I'd heard the original recorded version – featuring Emile Sande – many times, but this magnetic, heartfelt, solo performance by the 24-year-old Londoner simply oozed emotion. His exquisite half-cracked tones just sent a shiver down my spine.
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Blasting swiftly into electro, dance rap track Earthquake, his set was all over all too fast for me, but he had warmed the crowd well for a main event that was not so much a concert as a cinematic musical happening.
For Ben Drew, aka Plan B, song and film go hand in hand, and he and his band strolled on stage to a backdrop of old-school opening credits rolling on the big screens behind.
The last time I saw him present the songs from his soul concept album The Defamation of Strickland Banks was two years ago in this same venue. In the intervening time he's woven together some cracking complimentary visual drama from his videos to match the fierce footage from his feature film iLL Manors, which came later in the evening.
The first half of the show revisited some of those soul tracks with Ben in fine voice, in spite of the muffly overall sound, and looking slicker than ever in sharp maroon check suit. Rolling out his story of a fictional singer's slide into despair, he led his polished minstrels – two guitarists, bassist, drummer, keyboard player and two female backing singers – through epics like Writing's on the Wall, Love Goes Down, She Said and Welcome To Hell, ending on the rousing Prayin before skipping off stage for a swift character change.
Beatboxer Faith SFX filled the gap with guttural renderings that imitate everything from a string quartet to a drum and bass night in full flow.
Then Ben and company burst back on stage in street style iLL Manors mode, offering an utterly absorbing fast forward through his debut movie and the highlights of its soundtrack.
A curious covers medley kicked off an encore that saved the best till last – Always Stay Too Long and a reprise of the Ill Manors title track.
Quite a night...