Before Sunday's gig at Bristol Motion, a 'taxi dad' tweeted that he was dropping his son off at the Loyle Carner gig and had four hours to kill in Bristol. Within minutes Carner tweeted, "A pops should never have to wait outside. You want me to slap you on the guestlist?" The invitation was accepted, the average aged pushed upwards and the count of LC gig-goers called Nigel increased by (or to) one. That's just a snapshot of the warm humanity that Loyle Carner exudes. On the ensuing evidence from Sunday's gig, he can slap us with his uplifting, urbane urban bars as energetically and as often as he likes.
The venue, a cavernous former Victorian goods warehouse, was sold out. The acoustics weren't perfect for a medium that trades off the finer qualities of the lyrics. It was also brass monkeys cold (you could have kept a side of beef fresh in there for a month), leading LC to take to the stage in puffer jacket, hoodie and t-shirt. By the time the gospel strains of SCI Youth Choir on "The Isle of Arran" kicked in, though, this hulking refrigeration unit behind Temple Meads turned hotter than the sun and for an hour, Carner was the centre of the Universe.
He quickly peeled off the warm-up layers, and proceeded to own the stage, along with partner in rhyme, Rebel Kleff, bouncing through the hour joyously in an exuberant long-limbed skip-lope - like a hip-hop Peter Crouch. Everything was on target. Only two songs in and the crowd's mad love brought a polite request not to make him cry. Clutching his talismanic Cantona shirt, a memento of his late stepfather, he gleaned the same kind of partisan chanting usually reserved for a beloved team and he orchestrated a successful 'Oooh Aaah, Cantona' chant with a crowd who would largely have been in Pampers when said French footballing philosopher kung fu-ed a chinless barracker in 1997. All this from a Liverpool supporter. That's family Loylety - as is writing a tender song of brotherly love to an imaginary sister, "Florence", as a lyrical gift to your mother, compensating her for having two 'annoying' boys.
Last time Loyle Carner played Bristol Motion, he supported Kate Tempest. This time he sold it out. Last time, he didn't have an album like "Yesterday's Gone" to show for his efforts, whereas this performance was essentially his stellar 2017 debut piece, with a few preceding tracks, like BFG from his "A Little Life" EP and his Radio 1-aired Kanye West cover "Heard 'Em Say". It's rare that an album can be showcased in its entirety, but the strength in depth of his songwriting rang true, as tunes with less airplay like "Damselfly", "The Seamstress" and "No Worries" (complete with a new Carner freestyle at the end) stood alongside the big tunes.
Those landmark tracks from the current album dominated - with "Ain't Nothin' Changed" and "No CD" especially threatening to undermine the structural integrity of the building, with not a still torso in the house - the Kleff/Carner Chemistry volatile to say the least. The amended ending of the song, 'You ain't got no 'p's, 'cos you spent all your money on my new CD' was the nearest he came to grandstanding, and even that was delivered with endearing mischief. His poetry held its own alongside the music, with digital miscommunication piece "+44" epitomising Carner's pure linguistic prowess. At the end, the backdrop projection of the album cover (his family and friends) gradually changed, reducing down until there was just LC and his mother, then simply his mother, whose animated image concluded proceedings with the verse from "Son of Jean". Not many rappers are man enough to let their mums have the last word.
Despite promising himself he wasn't going to do encores (he had no more backing tracks), he returned for one final poem and then he was gone, disappearing down stairs, singing his stepdad's song "Yesterday's Gone". Yesterday may have gone, but tomorrow is undoubtedly Loyle Carner's.
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