There are plenty of bands that play to sold out crowds on a fairly regular basis. These are generally outfits that have been around a long time and tour seldom, like U2 or Madonna; or acts that are celebrating a monumental album in smaller, intimate settings, such as Dashboard Confessional’s current tour commemorating the 10th anniversary of his industry changing Swiss Army Romance album; or bands that explode onto the scene with several smash radio hits, like 3OH!3 and Taylor Swift. But rare is a sold out show so hyped, so coveted, and so utterly promoted when it showcases an artist most people haven’t even really heard of yet (in the US anyway), let alone spent time analyzig. Such was the case, however, last week in Los Angeles, as UK chart-topper Plan B absolutely rocked the Troubadour during his first ever performance there. You think I exaggerate? Just ask Sir Elton John, who was in attendance at the show, perched in the balcony high above the rest of us, reveling in the musical talent that Plan B- Ben Drew- exuded.
The most incredible beatboxer I have ever witnessed kicked off the evening. Faith SFX delivered a spectacular performance which set the scene perfectly for what was to come. When Plan B and his band took the stage next, looking dapper in their ties and vests, the energy level remained high. Starting with the R&B-heavy “Writing’s on the Wall” and “Free,” the band painted a soothing, soulful atmosphere early on with vocal-driven, funky beats. Keeping conversation between songs short and to the point, Plan B mesmerized the crowd with his angelic vocal chords.
When he looked out over the crowd and asked, “LA, do you like reggae music?” Plan B was answered with bellowing cheers. “Welcome to Hell” delighted the fans, then “My Love Goes Down” brought the mood down a bit to a more intense, emotional level. But it didn’t take long to pep the audience back up. “It’s time to raise the level,” the artist proclaimed, then delivered “The Recluse” which drove the room wild as his talent for rapping emerged and intertwined magically with his keen vocal ability. “I didn’t write this next song,” he admitted breathlessly. “I think it’s about smoking weed.” After the well-received cover, the crowd was in a frenzy as he belted out “What You Gonna Do”, stripped off his vest, and rapped eloquently.
The band thanked the audience kindly and exited the stage, but no one was fooled. “You guys want some more?” Plan B asked as he came back onstage. “Then you have to join in. These are songs I grew up with, that influenced me.” He then proceeded to launch into a glorious medley of old school tunes: including “The Track Of My Tears”, “Lean On Me”, and “My Girl.” When he started crooning “Stand By Me”, Faith SFX joined him onstage and performed an outstanding dub step remix- all with his voice. They proceeded together with “Ain’t No Sunshine”, then Plan B wowed us with his rapping again as they breezed through snippets of “Kissed From A Rose” and “Forgot About Dre”. His energy really built throughout the set and he truly shined when he was both rapping and singing.
Plan B did not let the night pass without acknowledging that we were all in the presences of greatness. “Forty years ago, Elton John played his first show here, and now I’m playing mine,” he said humbly and the entire venue applauded in the music legend’s direction. Plan B then closed out the night with the upbeat and danceworthy “Stay Too Long”, which ended in an all-out mosh pit of musicians onstage.
From start to finish, the show was outstanding and everyone that was there came away with a feeling they had witnessed something special. If you haven’t heard of Plan B, I implore you to educate yourself immediately. I won’t be surprised if, like Sir Elton John, we are still talking about his talent, and that magical performance, forty years from now.