Stormzy headlined the UK’s Reading Festival this weekend and opened his set in a head-bang-sized nod to the event’s rock roots thanks to the help of prog picker and YouTube guitar-nut Rabea Massaad.
The headline set on Saturday night opened with a screen reading: “They want a show? Then we will give them a fucking show – Stormzy 2021”
Massaad then appeared and made the most of the opportunity – seemingly having no issue filling the colossal stage with a bravado display of six-string heroics and big budget pyro.
The guitarist then stuck around to add a heavy layer to Stormzy’s opener Big Michael (which references Reading festival in the lyrics), augmenting the heavy brass synths with some distorted rock riffs and breakaway lead licks.
The move was reminiscent of Jay-Z’s Wonderwall/99 Problems opener at Glastonbury in 2008 – blending an attention-grabbing nod to the event’s rock origins into a heavier hit. Albeit less tongue-in-cheek and demonstrating a full understanding of the thrill of rock’s big stage theatrics.
While the audience was hardly skeptical in the first place – Stormzy’s place in the UK cultural landscape feels unassailable right now – it was another masterful stroke, immediately winning over doubters and bystanders.
Massaad returned to close out the show and shared footage of the gig on Instagram (above), saying, “Still so blown away with how epic this ended up being… Thanks again to Stormzy and (Chris) Bronski (Jablonski) for getting me involved.”
In a separate post (below) he shared some more pictures and detailed how the event came about, saying, “I got a call at the end of July from the fantastic @kojomusicofficial to get involved and also work on an arrangement for a heavy riff laden version of ‘Big Michael’ to open the show, along with a couple of other songs throughout the show!
“I’m incredibly grateful and honoured to be a part of these shows, and a huge shout out to @tawbox and Stormzy for finding me here on Instagram and choosing me to be the guy to do this.”
UK viewers with a TV license can check out Stormzy’s full performance over on BBC iPlayer.