Review by Hayley Clark with Photography by Bimal Tailor

Who’d have guessed it’s been 23 years since Common first appeared in London, supporting De La Soul… The love in the room is electrifying as Chi Town’s finest is appearing tonight on the first of two UK gigs following the release of his latest offering ‘Let Love’, the rapper turned actor’s 12th studio offering has a sell out crowd eagerly waiting at Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

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The vibe inside is chilled and peaceful, with a mix of cultures and ages filling the historic venue. Each side of the stage is adorned with the old stage clocks lit up with both rehearsal and performance times from its days as the BBC Television Theatre and vintage mouldings grace the ceilings for a touch royal nostalgia.

DJ Chucks takes the audience down memory lane, ‘Sound Of The Police’, ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ and there’s nothing like a splash of Cypress Hill to get the crowd going as Barney Artist stormed the stage, his energetic set and lovable rogue style left the audience grinning as he paced around the stage.

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“Everyone, my mum is up there ya know”, he pointed up to the boxes, “I want you to make some noise for me, even if you don’t know me because then she will think you all love me and tell everybody”.

The crowd loved the 26 year old East Londoners jazz infused hip hop smooth sounds, he also brought out homegrown talent Jordan Rakei to join forces on their collaboration ‘I’m Going To Tell You’, a catchy soulful melody that leaves the crowd swaying from side to side, the poetry is flowing and his short but sweet set left the audience wanting more.

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Known to be an inspiration for many, Common didn’t stop there when it came to supporting local talent “I can’t believe I’m actually supporting Common” beamed Sasha Keable before her sultry set alongside guitarist Ben, “He’s single ladies if there’s anyone out there that fancies a date with him” she said bigging up her friend. Dressed in mini dress and shimmering trench coat the audience were wowed as soon as the South London songstress opened her mouth, “That’s The Shit’ and ‘Treat Me Like I’m Yours’ bragged an Amy Winehouse vibe, as this girl can sing. The sultry tones and edgy sound left the crowd mesmerised as she joked along throughout her set at her excitement to be there supporting one of her idols, mirrored by the fans who were eagerly awaiting the main act.

Not so long ago, before the dramas of today, America had a President that the majority of his people loved, on Thanksgiving he’d take his family to feed the homeless and less well off and the White House at the time was hip. However with such a special and integral person in office those that performed at parties in the hallowed halls were pretty magical, alongside Janelle Monáe, Stevie Wonder and Prince, Common was one of those select few to hold the honour. Tonight was going to be no different as London were about to witness something that I could only be described as pretty magical, showing hip hop can be without the profanities, and you can make your point and talk about current issues without having to do so, hip hop can have substance too and that was what this musical god was all about.

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With a leather arm chair and lamp placed on the stage the band started to appear to cheers from the crowd, whipping them into a frenzy screams filled the venue as Common appeared bursting into his energetic set with ‘Southside’ beaming and lapping up the love London had to offer, bouncing from stage left to right, back to front they went wild at his noble presence and immense talent spitting bars and poignant lyrics as he took the audience on a journey through his career, not just the new material the set was splattered with the classics that the audience loved and sang along to.

In a production similar to musical theatre, his performance had substance, the interludes perched on the chair informing the audience of the demons and revolutionary speeches about the world today “We Need to make a difference ourselves in the world” rang true through the audience, tales of love had and lost gave the crowd a poignant insight to the artist before them. Tracks like ‘Used to Love H.E.R’ and ‘Love Of My Life’ mixed in with ‘Faithful’ and ‘Get Them High’ kept the audience moving as the soulful beats flowed from Common. Latest offering ‘Hercules’ shook the crowd with its thought-provoking lyrics “waiting for you to come outside, so they can downplay your life” before the fun began and Common showed off his breakdancing skills during ‘UMC’, spinning across the stage in the energetic performance.

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From bringing a young fan on stage to flatter her with his freestyles to rapping about the different boroughs of the UK’s capital and a date with a cheeky Nandos, the crowd participation was high as they chanted along with ‘heys’ and ‘hos’ in the phenomenally epic performance.

Even with a 28 song setlist the evening seemed to end prematurely. The raw sounds were excitingly flawless, the truthful words and positive energy enlightened the crowd as they travelled through a journey of hip hop infused with jazz, Common grabbed their attention and showed us he’s back better than ever with latest release ‘Let Love’ out now.

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See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

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