Although outside the popular Manchester venue it feels like the middle of winter, once the doors open and the venue starts filling up, the atmosphere inside is like something of a festival. Excited fans run to the front to get a good view of the band, young girls are scantily dressed as if the sun is beating down on them and people are sitting high above the crowd on each others shoulders, ready for the sold-out final night of Rudimental’s UK tour.
The three and a half thousand capacity venue is a small crowd for the drum and bass group from Hackney, especially compared to the size audiences they’ve faced before at festivals like T in the Park and the biggest of all, Glastonbury. The capacity, however, is irrelevant when you take in the enormous energy and immense buzz coming from the fans in this packed out venue.
Opening with a set from M.A.X, the London DJ brings passion to the stage, with sweat dripping with every flick of a button on the decks. Although the energy is high and the bass is almost deafening, a lack of well known tracks means this warm up act doesn’t quite hit all the rights notes trying to get the audience pumped and ready.
Second to the stage is Essex born singer/songwriter Anne-Marie, who has toured with Rudimental for the past three years. Despite feeling under the weather and spending most of the performance sipping a hot drink, she brings a sassy mix of hip-hop and R&B to the stage. Performing a string of catchy songs, her song Boy, a humorous track about falling for a guy who turns out to be gay, is a firm favourite from the audience. Her latest single Do It Right goes down a storm and she has the audience singing along to the chorus, as if this was her own headline gig.
After a quick turnaround, the stage is set with numerous speakers and multiple instruments. With an introduction full of heavy bass and flashing lights, the four-piece (minus frontman DJ Locksmith due to illness) burst onto the stage opening with their hit Right Here.
Heading smoothly into I Will For Love, vocalist and saxophonist Will Heard takes centre stage and gives a fantastic rendition of the popular song from their second album, We The Generation. Dressed very casually in an unironed t-shirt and baggy trousers, the 24 year old looks like he’s just rolled out of bed, yet his voice couldn’t be anymore awake and alive. His soulful tones and somewhat crazy dance moves prove he is a great performer and deserves to take lead vocals.
Rudimental’s performance is high-energy, wild, super fun and includes a set list of hit after hit after hit; it’s easy to forget quite how many great songs this band have under their belt.
As Heard and fellow vocalist Bridgette Amofah take centre stage to perform Treading On Water, the chemistry between the pair is red hot and they put on an incredibly believable performance, singing, “I don’t believe in magic but I know that you’re real. It’s not something I can see but something I feel”.
Rudimental are masters of their trade and know just how to work an audience. Commanding everyone to get down on the floor during Bloodstream, the audience hang onto their every word, clapping and jumping exactly when instructed. This band, along with the audience, look like they’re having the time of their lives.
Support act Anne-Marie joins Heard on stage for the band’s latest single Rumour Mill, which has the audience singing along word for word, followed by Love Ain’t Just A Word and a mash up of reggae style covers, with vocalist Thomas Jules shouting, “Wagwan Manchester. Everyone skank with me”.
The band finish with their huge hit Feel The Love, watched through thousands of hands in the shape of hearts that are held up to the sky. As the band lead off for their encore, the audience go wild and scream for the band to come back. Frontman Piers Agget looks shocked at the applause, telling the audience, “it’s the last show and the best show”. Finishing up with Waiting All Night, the lights flash like mad, the confetti cannons are fired and the O2 Apollo suddenly looks like it’s being showered with rainbows.
“We’ve been Rudimental and we absolutely love you”.