It's just gone eight on the last Saturday night of November and I'm run-walking up the incline towards North London's iconic Alexandra Palace. As the city unfolds to my left, a huge queue begins on my right. Winding it's way to the venue entrance, hundreds of drum & bass fans wait in fever pitch, all smiles and road beers.
When I get inside, the colossal venue is already pumping, bass reverberates through the Victorian halls and the bar queues are intimidatingly deep. By the time I fight through the crowds into the main arena, it's packed to bursting and Chase & Status have just appeared on stage. The crowd, obviously, goes ballistic.
Saul Milton and Will Kennard were on the final night of a world tour in support of their untitled fourth studio album. Both born and raised in London, this was to be their homecoming party after months on the road. And what a party! The 10,000 capacity venue was completely sold out, ditto the 1800 cap afterparty at Ministry of Sound and an estimated 1.5 million people tuning in to watch the livestream on Lad Bible. It was, as Saul would later tell me, "the best possible way to end the year."
The best possible way to end the year...Saul Milton - Chase
If it's a big moment for them, it's even bigger for the fans. As the arena is plunged into darkness, a canopy of red lazers stretches overhead and the stage slowly fills with purple smoke, the crowd tenses in unison, poised for the payoff. After a few strums of guitar that sounds more Slayer than sound boy, a wall of white lazers surrounds the stage. As the unmistakable voice of MC Rage fills the room, a giant C and S shine through the fog.
Opening with the as yet unreleased, "Nervous", it's a bold declaration of things to come, all heavy guitar riffs, heavier beats and Prodigy-esque synths. As Mc Rage spits "we are / the only thing that you need" it couldn't be more appropriate. The hundreds straining to take photos on their phones quickly change plans and get to jumping.
As if in response, Chase & Status quickly transition into the Novelist featuring "NRG". The sound is truly colossal, I'm always blown away by the noise that Ally Pally's system can create, but hearing big dirty bass in there for the first time was a real treat.The next one and a half hours are a tour de force of high energy Chase & Status cuts both new and old. It's a set full of big moments, not least for the guest spots which included a hyped Tempa T, a flawless Bugzy Malone and a soulful Nneka.
Chase & Status are one of those rare acts that have successfully managed to translate dance music to the band format and it's obvious they're equally at home on the big stages as their are in the DJ both. Up front Saul is clearly enjoying playing the guitar slinging rockstar, while MC Rage proves he's up their with the best frontmen in the business, even more so when he's tearing through Chase & Status classics. Discussing the live aspect, Saul "we've always made music for the dancefloor and we're fortunate that lots of it translates well whether it's the main stage or on the dancefloor."
The two experiences are totally different, and we take a different approach to both. Some of our new music is born and tested on the road, it can exist in another format, so by the time we play it live, it's already taken on a life of it's own. Both are equally important in their own way to us.Saul Milton - Chase
It's easy to forget just how many big tracks Chase & Status have. As they run through their back catalogue each track feels like a moment and it slowly becomes clear why they garner such a huge following. I first came across them living in student halls in Manchester and seeing them a grimey nights at Ape at The Apollo. I've already written about how their first album felt like the perfect soundtrack to Manchester in 2008. When I caught up with Saul I asked him if any one place has influenced their upcoming fourth album; "not really, although London is always inspirational. We're in a good place creatively at the moment and this fourth album feels like some of our best work yet."
And if the Alexandra Palace reaction to their new cuts is any indication he might be right. Chase & Status have managed to dominate both the underground and the charts with a back catalogue that takes in drum & bass, grime, bass and dubstep. But whether a track is for the radio or the floor, it's all the same to Saul, "We don't really think about it. We make what we love and we hope people like it too. You can kill yourself trying to predict trends or making music for likes and statistics. Make what you love."
With a final one-two punch of "Blind Faith" and "No More Idols", Chase & Status wrapped up what must've been their biggest live show to date, but the night was far from over. It was time to wing it across London to Ministry of Sound, where Will, Saul and Rage would be holding court in the DJ booth. Over 2,000 people passed through our doors that night and in three years of working here I don't know if I've ever seen The Box that rammed.
On that dark night in November, Chase & Status were truly the homecoming kings.
All photos by Jake Lewis
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