Craig David proves he’s no nostalgia act at The Roxy

The last two times Craig David was in Los Angeles, I wasn’t in town to see his show and it really bummed me out. So when it was announced that he was headlining The Roxy to kick off 2018, I wasn’t going to miss it.

I’ve been a Craig David fan since “Fill Me In” started getting play on MTV in 2000. 13-year-old me was super excited when all of a sudden two years ago he started popping up again — on KAYTRANADA’s “Got It Good”, then putting out his own album in 2016 called Following My Intuition. And I’m not the only one who is here for the Craig David comeback — his shows at the El Rey and Fonda in the last year-plus both sold out.

Craig David’s show in 2018 is not your typical R&B nostalgia show. It’s billed as Craig David Presents TS5, and it features the UK star alternating between deejaying and singing the hooks of songs that aren’t his — like Bieber’s “Love Yourself” for instance, and singing his own classics. Sometimes he sings his old songs over their original beats, and sometimes he sings them over other beats, making live mashups.

He dropped “Fill Me In” fairly early in the set and the cell phones went in the air. For being 36 turning 37 this year, David uses more energy on stage than most of the people at the top of the hip-hop charts. He was also wearing a sweatshirt under a leather jacket, something I’ve only really seen in my time as a boxing writer when a fighter is trying to cut weight. It was also funny because the rest of us in the packed crowd were sweating like crazy just dancing in place. Craig David never stopped moving for a second, a remarkable contrast from many of today’s rappers and singers who sing one bar and then tell the crowd to throw their hands up.

Craig David brings out a pretty wide-reaching crowd. There were more British accents than I can remember hearing in any one crowd, as they came to support one of their own. There was a younger contingent who may have heard “Got It Good” or one of his other features on an electronic producer’s tracks and then went back and discovered all his old jams.

David has updated his sound for 2018 in a big way. His song with Blonde “Nothing Like This” is a perfect club banger that utilizes his voice and lightning-fast rapping skills and has a fun drop. The biggest pop of the night came either when he performed his song “I Know You” — which was a collaboration with Bastille — or “7 Days”, one of the ultimate bedroom jams of the last 20 years.

After seeing his show up close, I’m absolutely shocked that no American festivals booked him on their lineup. He fills so many boxes for what makes a good festival booking. Rumors of Craig David’s musical demise were greatly exaggerated — with a new album coming this year and people lining up to collaborate with him, he’s set to stick around for a while.

Photos by Stephanie Varela Rheingold