Review by Vicky Gottschalk
29/09/13 o2 Arena, London
20 years after the tragic murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence, the o2 saw some of music’s biggest names unite for a one-off, special concert. The aim of the night was to champion youth and social empowerment, whilst raising awareness and funds for The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust; a trust set up by Stephen’s mother, Doreen Lawrence, to help develop brighter futures for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
I was lucky enough to be in the audience for the event, to be witnessing the likes of Plan B, Rizzle Kicks, Jessie J, Rita Ora, Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding, Beverley Knight, Tinie Tempah, Labrinth, Dizzee Rascal and Emeli Sande take to the stage to show their respect for the trust. The night saw the above artists, plus many more, and the general public work together to create a one-off concert, whilst raising awareness and funds for the Stephen Lawrence Trust. Each artist took to the stage with one of their most popular songs and another song, which they had specially chosen due to its social message.
With Nick Grimshaw and Reggie Yates hosting the night, there was never a shortage of laughter and entertainment. Plan B took to the stage and performed both songs from his album ‘Ill Manors‘, reflecting on how easy it is for the youth of today to fall into the wrong crowd, highlighting why it’s important to be surrounded by positive role models. The crowd were particularly excitable and as what I can only describe as friendly mosh-pits covered the entire floor space of the o2, Rizzle Kicks took over.
Performing their latest song ‘Lost Generation‘, another song highlighting the state of society, teenage girls went mad as Harley and Jordan bounced around the stage. Surprising every single person in the audience with their own personal rendition of ‘Blackbird‘ by The Beatles, the crowd silenced as it was obvious to see the effect the event it was having on both performers. I was one years old when Stephen Lawrence was murdered; although I’ve heard what happened through various mediums, I’ve never been made fully aware of the extent of the tragedy. I entered the o2, excited for an evening of entertainment, and as Rizzle Kicks ended their set, I could already see just how ground-breaking this event was – and the importance of raising awareness to such an important social charity.
Ed Sheeran was next up to perform and completely blew everyone away. In fact, no words will do his set justice as he performed at his most frank and honest. Performing ‘A Team‘ and ‘You Need Me Man, I Don’t Need You‘, Rizzle Kicks also joined him on stage for the latter. Armed with his guitar and his ginger hair, Ed Sheeran really didn’t look like much standing on the huge stage of the o2. But when he started singing, the crowd silenced and you could feel his presence, even in the very highest seats. Along with the other performers, he’s the perfect ambassador for the charity; at a similar age as Stephen Lawrence was when he was murdered, Ed Sheeran is living proof that accompanied by passion, ambition and a serious talent, you can do the world some serious good. As girls around me screamed at the top of their lungs and teenage boys looked on in awe as Ed had the entire crowd eating out of the palm of his hand, I wondered for the first time that night how teenagers/young adults can get so bitter and spiteful. It seems completely foreign to think that the kids around me could potentially hurt one of their peers and it struck me how important it is that charities like The Stephen Lawrence Trust exist. Although artists like Tinie Tempah, Labrinth, Beverley Knight, Jamie Cullum, Rita Ora and Dizzee Rascal completely brought the house down with their performances, it was really Ellie Goulding, Jessie J and Emeli Sande who were my personal highlights.
Accompanied by the London Gospel Community Choir, Jessie J performed a beautifully stripped back version of ‘Amazing Grace‘, that had the burliest of men reaching for the tissues. Having seen Jessie J perform live before, it’s safe to say I was expecting a huge show including disco lights, dancing teddy bears and falling money. However, her performance pleasantly surprised me as she performed with one single spotlight. The beauty in her performance was really held in the simplicity of it all and it beautifully captured her vocal ability and her belief in the Trust itself.
Despite a minor mic fault, Ellie Goulding reminded me just why she’s a total superstar. As she performed ‘Anything Could Happen‘, the crowd bounced along with her. I’ve only seen Ellie Goulding perform live once before and that was when she first hit the music industry; to say it was an amazing experience to see her progression would be an understatement. She knows exactly how to work the crowd and without a shadow of a doubt, watching her perform was the highlight to my evening. Her final song was her cover of Elton John’s ‘Your Song‘, which had practically every single audience member in tears. The beauty of the song combined with the overwhelmingness of the evening and the reason why thousands of people were stood at the o2 together was quite hard to digest. Strangers became friends as the person next to you would turn, just to give you a hug, reminding you to be thankful and grateful for every single opportunity we’re given whilst on this Earth.
Doreen Lawrence also took to the stage to say a very heartfelt thank you to everybody involved in the evening, explaining the foundations of the Trust and just why she is actively promoting, and establishing, her son’s legacy. The whole night was a beautiful experience and one I was incredibly grateful to be a part of.
Through the work of Doreen Lawrence, the Stephen Lawrence Trust and every single performer involved in the concert, it became very clear that Britain’s youth has the potential to change for the best. Although off to a slow start, there is still so much more to be done and whilst the concert marked the anniversary of Stephen’s death and highlighted his legacy, it proved that with continuous hard, yet necessary work, the Trust can embrace the changes that need to happen. The concert will play a huge role in the initiative behind the Trust and I actively encourage anybody reading this to get involved in any way that you can.
Emeli Sande ended the concert perfectly, proving to the audience just why the world has gone Emeli Sande crazy over the last year or two. Performing songs from her album ‘Version of Events‘, the crowd danced, cried, sung along and watched in wonder as she joined the o2 together with her voice.
Ellie Goulding’s mic might have silenced her for a minute, but we all have voices that we are worth hearing. The concert was amazing but imagine what would happen, if we all stood up in the name of Stephen Lawrence, and actively attempted to change a little bit of the world around us? Doreen Lawrence is the perfect example of how much of an effect our actions can have on society and I was honoured to be in her presence.