Wretch 32

SAM MELLOR is left surprised by an artist who oozes swagger.

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Friday 11th May, The Junction.


It’s strange how the Junction appears to remain shrouded in obscurity for a lot of students.

Judging by the ads for up-and-coming gigs I noticed whilst waiting in the queue for Wretch, the Junction plays host to an impressive variety of top artists. Unfortunately the excitement for events like this often fails to penetrate the Cambridge University bubble, especially during exam term, so for company I had to make do with a load of Sixth-formers wearing flat peaks and high-tops and drinking Diet Coke. Good times.

I got into the venue just as L. Marshall was coming to the end of his set, playing an acoustic version of the massive Wretch 32 hit Traktor. The crowd was fairly subdued at this point, clearly all here for the man himself and not some vocalist who featured on one of his songs. Jakwob was on next together with a live band, which for me was unexpected – knowing him only for his dubstep wobbles on various (Ellie Goulding) remixes, the chilled, albeit still bass-heavy, James Blake-esque vibe was a pleasant surprise. The crowd remained unmoved.



And so, after a very muted warm-up, it was time for the main event. Cue lights and atmospheric music, together with a retina-scorching strobe light show. The live band took up playing, but the DJ was clearly spinning one of Wretch’s tunes because there were vocals but no Wretch in sight. Obviously revelling in building the anticipation, he finally swaggered onto the stage to take over on the mic in the fashion a boxer would walk to the ring, hooded and with sunglasses firmly on. The audience went ballistic.

There was great energy throughout, with songs such as Unorthodox flowing into a cover of Jump Around, and ‘Traktor’ as a final flourish of Wretch showmanship in the encore; but there were heartfelt moments too, with soulful vocals from two guest singers that made the hits Don’t Go and Anniversary all the more powerful.



The live show also used some clever musical tricks, incorporating verses of well-known songs in between Wretch’s own as well as a few novelty cover versions – Coldplay’s Yellow made an appearance, as did Earthquake and You Need Me, I Don’t Need You, both given Wretch makeovers. All in all, it was a well-worked blend of hyped-up swaggering rap with genuine musical talent. The Wretch 32 formula fits sweetly with contemporary pop music but retains a certain excitement and integrity.

Having not been an avid follower of Wretch 32’s music, I didn’t know what all the fuss was about, but seeing him live I could see the stage presence and sense the confidence that he had, dripping with arrogance and working the crowd to his every will. He was brilliant.