Having blown up in the middle of the pandemic and gone on to become a chart-conquering artist, the love Central Cee now receives is immense. That much is evident in the welcome Alexandra Palace reserves for the rapper during the latest stop of his ‘Still Loading’ tour, his first global venture. “London, I’m home!” he announces to his rowdy and rapturous audience.
Following on from the success of his first two mixtapes – 2021’s ‘Wild West’ and its chart-topping 2022 follow-up ‘23’ – his audience are champing at the bit tonight to hear some of these songs performed live for the first time. Mosh pits frequently break out, and Cench is forced to pause ‘Wild West’’s introspective opener ‘6 For 6’ out of concern for some fallen fans (“that’s the pros and cons of being this lit,” he notes when everyone is safely back on their feet).
It’s clear that Central Cee is supremely confident in his own ability: this is a one-man show, one where he mostly stalks the stage alone and often performs three-quarters of a bar before letting the crowd deliver the final words. The latter performance trait isn’t laziness or arrogance, but, as he tells us later in the set, it’s simply because he “loves to hear you lot” rap his lyrics back to him. It’s a luxury that can be afforded to artists like Cench, who now has an internationally-recognised arsenal of hits at his disposal.
Central Cee live at Alexandra Palace, November 2022 (Picture: Jennifer McCord / Press)
There are some special guests in attendance, however. West London’s A2 Anti and rising European stars like Rondodasosa and Baby Gang help out on ‘Eurovision’, while on ‘Lil Bro’ Cench brings out his actual little brother, Juke Caesar, to perform the track together while facing one another.
It’s a tender moment that showcases Cench’s vulnerability as he recreates the track’s conversational studio version with his younger sibling in front of an audience of thousands. When it’s all over, the eponymous Lil Bro – maintaining his anonymity with a face mask and shades – tells us to “make some noise for my fucking brother” as Central Cee grins a gummy smile. It’s heartwarming stuff.
One thing that’s clear from tonight’s show is just how much Cench loves his craft. With no big gimmicks or clout-chasing special guests who might’ve stolen the show, the 24-year-old is able to stand tall as a solo artist in full command of his own big occasion. Clutching his mic to his heart as the show comes to an end, you can tell that Central Cee is not taking these big moments for granted.
Central Cee played:
‘Little Bit of This’
‘Straight Back to It’
‘Hate it or Luv It’
‘6 For 6’
‘Overseas’ (D-Block Europe cover)
‘LA Leakers Freestyle’
‘Obsessed With You’
‘Day in the Life’