DJ Fresh + Rita Ora @ Academy 2, Birmingham – 11th May 2012

DJ Fresh has successfully made a “fresh” soundtrack for the summer, so it was surprising tonight to see the English Drum & Bass and dub step producer performing for a less than full Birmingham Academy 2 (the smaller room.) But with the lack of bobbing heads it was a great chance to see the DJ in an intimate setting as he is surely destined for big things.

It’s taken Fresh a while to get out of the underground scene, with his early work dating back to the 90’s, but he’s finally done it and he’s now topping the charts. A close rival I believe for Calvin Harris. As the name insinuates this is a fresh sound taking the music scene by storm.

It wasn’t just DJ Fresh who we came to see tonight, as Rita Ora was in the building. After all Rita Ora is “Hot Right Now” and part of Daniel Stein’s success this year. As one of the most played records of 2012 “Hot Right Now” was a crowd favourite. A chance like this to see Rita in such good view is one worth taking. Things are really happening for Rita, with record label boss Jay-Z behind her and names like Will I Am, Kanye West and Drake all working with her on her first album. “RIP” got the loudest reception tonight, produced by Chase And Status and written by Drake where can you go wrong!? “How We Do (Party)” was another catchy tune which borrowed lyrics from Notorious B.I.G. This really showcased the different sounds incorporated by Rita in her songs. With a start in the music industry like this Rita Ora will no doubt be on a headlining tour very soon and not upstairs but downstairs in the main Academy. The performance tonight was very energetic as Rita is a charismatic character, the crowd could sing every word back to her and she started the show off with a bang. It’s not often the support act outdoes the headliner but tonight I feel Rita might have edged it. She is like a young Gwen Stefani, working with everyone at the moment so expect big things from Rita Ora.

Now it was time For DJ Fresh or FRESH/LIVE (a drummer, guitarist, vocalist, an MC and Fresh himself on keys to perform identical renditions of his studio-produced hits in live settings) who bounced on stage and, before the songs had begun, a mosh pit had emerged. DJ Fresh stayed put behind his decks alongside his entourage (a group of handpicked musicians) who treated us to “Louder” “Gold Dust” and, joined by Rita Ora, “Hot Right Now.” It was “The Power” that stood out tonight, created with Dizzee Rascal who has a close relationship with the DJ. It would have been awesome if Dizzee could’ve been here tonight but he’s probably in the Mediterranean somewhere partying. The vibe was almost cut short when all of a sudden “Paradise” by Coldplay was belted out, but it was a great performance. I was half expecting that it would suddenly turn into an electro hit but it didn’t and it gave everyone a well needed rest. It was atmospheric as Coldplay are and the audience new all the words and the fans were putting their hands together to create the DJ Fresh triangle sign. (I still don’t know why a triangle.)

But the mood was cut short as Messy MC asked us to move to the kick drum and it was time for “Bigger Than Hip Hop”, a song by Dead Pres which is so catchy it only needs four words in it. This sums up some of the biggest songs in the music industry at the moment, all you need is a catchy hook and you’re famous. I feel that FRESH/LIVE had more to give however, as Fresh was only on stage for 50 minutes. No wonder he’s so Fresh when he’s tucked up in bed at 11pm!

DJ Fresh is a nice change from David Guetta, however. We need someone like him to change the shape of the drum & bass scene. Like Rita Ora, DJ Fresh has strong links with big names and his mainstream success will hopefully build on his ongoing momentum. If you have chance to go and see any of the acts tonight in the summer go for it, it is an experience you will not regret.

Review – John Kirby
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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