Loyle Carner @ The Liquid Room, 4 Feb
Having come a long way from his support slot for Kate Tempest at The Bongo Club a few years ago, Carner is at the start of a European tour whose UK stint comes to an impressive conclusion with two sold-out nights at the 2,000-capacity Shepherds Bush Empire in London.
With a queue half way down Victoria Street before the doors even open, the night’s anticipation is clear from the get go. The show kicks off with a lyrically thought-provoking and confident support set from Manik, who cuts the music mid-performance to deliver a powerful spoken-word piece. With some poetry and spoken-word interludes on Carner's recent debut album, it’s clear the two artists compliment each other well.
To a deafening barrage from the crowd, Loyle Carner and his producer Rebel Kleff finally take the stage; the rapper donning a kilt for the night. “I’m half Scottish. My grandad was Scottish. It had to be done,” he tells the crowd, still clutching last tour’s namesake: his dad’s Cantona shirt.
The set begins with latest single The Isle of Arran, another nod to his Scottish heritage. Epic strobe lighting matches the powerful choral sample, creating an immersive and exciting start. Carner’s recent success rides on not just his music, but his openness and charm; something he conveys with ease on stage. Commanding the space with simultaneous charisma and humility, he moves the set along at a good pace, stopping briefly to grab an audience member on stage for a hug, yet delivering track after track with a dazzling energy.
Florence is met with euphoria from the crowd, who chant back every word, with the chorus of the Tom Misch-featuring Damselfly also sung word for word. DJ Rebel Kleff is persuaded into grabbing the mic for the duo’s album track, No Worries, and the chemistry between the two friends on stage is clear.
Older cut Tierney Terrace sees Carner at his most confident, whilst his biggest hit, Ain’t Nothing Changed makes the audience explode. As the set draws to a close, with the upbeat NO CD capitalising on the room’s energy and enjoyment, it's clear that this is an effortless and seamless performance from a talented young artist, who is somewhat idolised by his fans.
Loyle Carner is a young UK voice, making conscious and interesting hip-hop, which is distinct from the currently dominant grime scene. Whilst some suggest his repeated references to his mum, friends or ex-girlfriends is unwanted sentimentality, it is clear tonight that many others recognise this as not sentimental, but genuine. Carner’s subject matter is relatable to a generation of British music fans: family, relationships and student loans? This is normal life for many, talked about honestly, by an artist at the top of his game.