Friday, 1 May 2015

How Tinie Tempah disappointed me...

A few weeks ago, I found out from a friend that one of my favourite artists, Tinie Tempah, was going to be playing an intimate gig in Canterbury - at Club Chemistry.

Despite having been here at the University of Kent half a year, I had not yet been to Chemistry. But the opportunity to see Tinie, for £35 (significantly cheaper than usual) and in a club (significantly smaller than the sorts of venues he normally plays now) seemed too good to pass up.

I had been looking forward to it ever since.

I first saw Tinie live in 2010, at KOKO in London. His first album had just come out and he was fast becoming a bigger star than Dizzee Rascal. Since then, I have seen him a total of five times (excluding the other night) at gigs and festivals.

I was managing my expectations a little more with this. Having been disappointed when Wiley played a set at The Venue (on campus) earlier in the year, and he had come on pretty late - certainly a lot later than I was used to for a gig - then I was prepared for Tinie not being onstage until at least midnight. I was fast discovering that gigs in clubs by big artists tend to be shorter, and start later anyway.

But I knew I wasn't going to feel that same sense of disappointment that I'd felt with Wiley. Where the main issue with him was his performance was unremarkable, then my previous experience of Tinie told me that even if he only played 5 or 6 songs, he'd make them count.

I checked Twitter earlier in the day, and discovered Tinie was due in Canterbury for 2.30am.

Pretty late, especially given that the doors for the event opened at 10.00, and there'd be no admittance after 11.00, but I thought, 'That's fine. It's a long time to wait, but it will definitely be worth it.'

I arrived at around 10.45. On top of the £35 ticket fee, I had discovered it was possible to purchase a meet-and-greet with the man himself for another £30. It was a little steep, but I'd been wanting to meet Tinie face-to-face for 5 years - who knows when another opportunity like that might come up? I bought it and got a different coloured wristband that would allow me to meet him and have a photo op.

So I waited. There aren't really many of my friends here at Kent who like Tinie - certainly not to the same degree that I do - so I was on my own. I saw my friend Verity there, from my course, and chatted to her and her mates a bit, but essentially, I was stuck twiddling my thumbs for 4 and a half hours, while we waited for Tinie and DJ Charlesy to arrive.

I was bored. I'm not going to lie to you, I really was. Even for the other people that enjoy clubbing much more than I do anyway (really not my thing unless I have a lot of mates with me), then I could hear people moaning that Tinie wasn't due to arrive until 2.30.

2.30am finally arrived....and no Tinie. There had been some movement from security guards, who'd gone towards the emergency exit, but it would be another ten minutes before him and Charlesy appeared.

When they did, Charlesy went straight for the turntables. 'Here we go...', I thought. Things were about to get started - they were about to get interesting. As we all looked on, Tinie himself was being ushered through the front of the crowd, to the VIP area. There was some champagne on the table, which Tinie started pouring himself some of as he got set up, and Charlesy was doing a good job of getting the crowd going.

But to be fair to Charlesy, as much as I like him, and think he's a great DJ, then having had four and a half hours of DJ music being pumped out the speakers, I was ready for Tinie.

The rest of the audience seemed to be too - all eyes were on him as he set up, said hello to a couple of the VIPs and progressively drank more champagne.

By this point it was nearing 3.00am. Tinie had tested the mic out a couple of times about 5-10 minutes before, but he seemed to be taking an awfully long time. He kept checking his phone and chatting to one of the guys he had there with him.

He then started pouring champagne into cups, and passing it around to nearby members of the audience - both those that were and weren't in the VIP area. Very exciting for everyone. A gig with Tinie Tempah passing around free drinks before going onstage? People were hardly going to complain.

I was then beckoned over by one of the security guards - they were apparently doing the meet-and-greet right there and then. 'Okay,', I thought. Do it now so that he can come on and do his set, and then slip away quickly afterwards - fair enough.

I went up into the VIP area, and waited. I was stood very near to Tinie, and after a few minutes, the guy Tinie had been talking to turned round to me, said hi, and introduced me. I smiled, shook Tinie's hand, and told him what a big fan of his I was. I told him how I'd been to see him at KOKO in 2010, and how Dad had taken me because I was too young at that point to go by myself. Tinie thanked me and seemed true to the idea of him I had built up over the years - friendly and gracious.

I did wonder when the photo op would arise though. Another guy stood near me asked for a selfie and seemed to be actively discouraged by the guy Tinie had with him.

After a few minutes of Tinie still standing there, not having performed yet, Louise (who I had bought my meet-and-greet through) came over. She gave us some rather unsettling news, just out of Tinie's earshot.

Apparently Tinie wasn't going to play. It sounded as if, when he first came in, he wasn't even that enthralled by the idea of the meet-and greet.

We couldn't believe what we were hearing. There must have been some kind of misunderstanding, I thought. He wouldn't do that - not Tinie. This is a guy who has practically built up his reputation over the years as being friendly and gracious to his fans, and for giving everything 100%.

After a little longer (bearing in mind this is probably at least 3.30am now), Tinie started making his way back through the crowd.

Ah, here we go. Better late than never. He'd do his set and it'd all be worth it. Obviously there had been a misunderstanding after all. No matter.

 "Alright, since I've come all the way to Canterbury, I might as well do one song for you guys..."


It seemed as if Louise hadn't been wrong after all. Either Tinie had changed his mind, or had been persuaded.

He performed Pass Out, which naturally went down well, but him starting with that wasn't filling me with much confidence that I might have heard him wrong. Pass Out is traditionally the song Tinie ends his set with, it being one of his biggest ever hits to this day.

He finished Pass Out, and then said he would do one more 'before he went'. He did Tsunami (Jump), and then said "Canterbury, you've been great, I'll see you on tour!", before putting down the mic and heading for the door.

And that was it.

Charlesy played one more song from the tables, and then packed up his things and followed.

We were all pretty confused. And to be honest, some people were livid.

There were certain people who, combined with their ticket price, and whatever it had cost them and/or their friends to be VIPs, spent over £100.

And as far as we were concerned, Tinie had arrived late, kept everyone waiting, and then played 2 songs.

Now look - I'd be lying to you if I said the performance he put in wasn't a good one. It's Tinie - of course it was good.

But it wasn't massively special. It didn't make me feel terribly excited to have him there, like so many of his previous gigs had done.

It had been a long night. Over the course of the 5 hours (at least) waiting for his arrival, I had gotten drunk, but had sobered up again.
I had paid £30 extra for a meet-and-greet with one of my heroes, and while the brief conversation I had had with him was nice, it barely lasted 30 seconds (if that), and there were some people who had paid for that same privilige who didn't even get up there to talk to him. In that sense, I was lucky.

I didn't really know what to do. I didn't feel angry as such, in the way that a lot of other people seemed to be, but I was bitterly, bitterly disappointed.

This man, who I had admired since I was 14/15...who I had considered a role model to me in many ways...had let me down. And he'd let his fans down.

He had turned up to a gig he had been booked for, and it sounded as if he had essentially got there and gone 'Nah, I don't really feel like it now', and only done a couple of songs because he was persauded, or felt a sense of obligation.

If what we heard about his reaction to the idea of meet-and-greets (which will have been agreed prior to his arrival) is true, one could be forgiven for thinking that those he spoke to, like me, he spoke to not because he wanted to talk to his fans and make them feel special (as I would have expected) but because he felt obligated.

I spoke to Louise briefly on my way out. It was very uncomfortable - she'd been so nice, and friendly and accomodating, with regard to organising it for me to meet my hero, that I felt guilty to be asking...

But the night had left me at least £60 out-of-pocket, for what was really a shorter gig than the last one I'd seen Tinie at (at the O2, last year) for two thirds of the money.

I said to Louise straight off that I appreciated and understood it wasn't her or Chemistry's fault. But bless her, she immediately understood and asked for me to be given back the £30 that I had paid for the meet-and-greet.
There was talk of full refunds for tickets, which those who asked for have all since received. Chemistry had tried to get in touch with Tinie's management to ask them to pick up the fee, but since they wouldn't pick up the phone, Chemistry generously refunded us all themselves.

I trudged back to the bus stop, waited ages for my Nite Bus, and came back to campus.

Let me be clear: Had I known what I was getting into, I would not have been disappointed. Had we been told from the off that Tinie would only be playing a couple of songs and passing around drinks, I would have probably been okay with that. It wouldn't have been what I'd have hoped for, but I wouldn't have felt cheated, and I suspect most other people wouldn't have either..

Naturally though, there is no way even Chemistry could have known that that was how things would pan out.

My perception of Tinie for the last 4-5 years has been as a humble, dedicated and caring artist, who really respected his fans and loves what he does. He turns up, he gives each performance 100%, and he gets the job done.

But now, for the first time ever, I am seriously questioning that perception of him.

Judging by the angry reactions I saw both while I was there and on twitter, so are a lot of people.

For some people that will have been the first time they saw Tinie live. What does that say to them, about what kind of artist he is?

I don't know the context. Perhaps there is a deeper reason as to why Tinie only did two songs and no photo-ops. Perhaps there's a rational explanation.

To be honest, I really damn well hope there is. Because I want so badly to let it go. To forgive what has happened.

It will be interesting to see if there is an explanation given.

But regardless of whether there is or not, then I think a lot of people are owed an apology for the events of that night.

This man was my hero. This was the guy that really got me into rap music. He makes great music, he's got a great sense of humour, he seems nice and polite and humble - everything I've ever heard about him suggests he's one of the nicest and most respected guys in the industry, and that he works incredibly hard, for himself and for his fans. And that he treats them all with the utmost respect.

But, despite the amiable brief conversation I had with him that night, then his actions...that wasn't the Tinie Tempah that I feel I know and love.

And for those who have not followed his career as closely as I have in recent years, then they may never know or be convinced of any different.

And that breaks my heart.

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