It was guest after guest after guest paying their respects to The Godfather last week in London
Back before Piers Morgan lifted the idea for Life Stories there was This Is Your Life. The show, a TV staple for decades, would see latter-day presenter Michael Aspel walk a celebrity through their iconic life moments before gifting them a giant red book. The bulging document was basically a mix between a family photograph album and their own autobiography.
Wiley was only just getting going when that show came to an end in 2003, but this performance tonight feels a whole lot like that. At two points in particular: once where Beats 1’s Julie Adenuga arrives on stage with a cameraman to capture Wiley’s reaction to being crowned Noisey’s Greatest UK MC Of All Time, and secondly when Skepta finishes their collaborative performance by handing his colleague a framed record – a meaty, congratulatory arm wrapped around his shoulders.
The show opens with a video clip – Richard Cowie’s life, from baby photos to festival performances, edited into a high-energy mash-up – before the 38-year-old sprints on stage wearing a burgundy tracksuit.
He launches into ‘Speakerbox’. It’s a fiery opening, and one of the few times during the next 90 minutes where it’s just him, his DJ and the backdrop visuals on the stage. The rest is almost a constant procession of his students here to pay their respects.
There’s the aforementioned Skepta, on stage for ‘U Were Always Pt. 2’. P-Money, JME, Chip, Lethal B, Devlin, Scratchy, Ghetts, all take their turn.
Later, Stormzy takes the stage on his own for two songs, saying “it’s been a while since I played in London”. It’s a frenetic medley from an MC who’s about to release his own debut album, but as Wiley regains the mic for the last few songs it’s clear no-one is here to thieve his spotlight.
For a man who knows his status, Wiley’s taking it all graciously, giving each guest a loving hug as they leave the stage.
“I appreciate all the greats that came before me, and the greats that are now around me,” he says at one point. “Sorry for the times I never turned up,” he jokes at another, “I was going through life, cut me some slack.”
He might have recently released what he says is his final album, but it’s clear tonight that if the The Godfather is about to retire he’ll be doing so at the peak of his game.
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