Loyle Carner brings the noise to Leeds at a sold out show at the newly opened Headrow House.
I first heard of Loyle Carner in 2014 when he featured on a track called Guts by Kate Tempest and her subsequent tour for which he was the opening act. His skills on the mic were impressive and he had a confidence and humbleness which resonated throughout and made you like the man as much as the music. After a year which seems to have gotten bigger and better for him this was. Headrow House welcomed him for the last night of his first headline tour which he later told the crowd was sold out every night. But this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise after a summer which has included playing Outlook Festival just before Madlib and Pete Rock, Reading/Leeds Festival, an appearance on Radio 1, Benicassim, and supporting DJ Premier & Royce Da 5’9. I could go on with his impressive rap-resume, but I think his work speaks for itself.
An excellent set from London group Hester started the night. Although normally a quintet they played simply composed of a female lead singer, a guitarist and a backing track with a neo-soul sound. The pair had a chemistry and confidence that shone through and pulled the audience in with beautiful soft and seemingly effortless soulful singing. The comparisons to Erykah Badu were clear and a Badu cover just demonstrated how easily the singer could pull off the comparison. The pair played a more stripped back and politically charged homage to the well-publicised police brutality in the USA recently. A track that seemed to sample the iconic bassline of Unfinished Symphony by Massive Attack shone through as a stand out track for me. Hester were well received and were a fantastic start to the night, engaging the audience from the start.
After a quick break Loyle Carner came on to the cheers of a packed out room. Starting with BFG, a sombre and heart-felt song about the passing of his step-dad. The set progressed with what already have the feel of classics with tunes like The Money, Ain’t Nothing Changed and Florence, a song about the little sister Loyle Carner always wanted to have and the pancakes he’d cook for her. Even the best MC’s need an excellent producer to add weight to their rhymes and Rebel Kleff does just that. Acting as DJ, producer and surprisingly/hilariously high-pitched backing singer on their cover of Kanye West’s Heard Em Say. Rebel Kelff’s production is well-constructed with piano riffs, acoustic guitar and a lot of soul delicately chosen to compliment the lyrics.
Loyle Carner’s skills not only emulate that classic Boombap sound of the Golden Age of the early nineties but almost gives the impression that he has been rapping since then. Carner confessed to being a bit negative in his writing or tended to focus on his family life, but in the spirit of ‘keeping it real’ I think this gives him a maturity beyond his years and an appealing relatability. As someone who is often disenfranchised by what masquerades as hip-hop and the blasé attitudes of misogyny, homophobia and rampant consumerism which are still all too often accepted, Loyle Carner gives my faith in the genre a huge boost.
Both Loyle Carner and Rebel Kleff had a great rapport with the crowd: laughing, joking, telling little stories and dishing out whiskey to anyone in the first couple of rows who had an empty glass to toast the success of their tour. A good show to me is one where you come away feeling like you’ve got to know the artist a little better and Carner’s confessionals in between songs did just that; telling the audience about his mum’s plan to adopt a little girl and his love for his inspirational step-dad who died last year. If you’ve not had the pleasure of seeing this guy live or even listening to any of his tracks, you should get on it. This lad is going to be big.
Words by Oliver Bowling