Loyle Carner – Not Waving, But Drowning – London Roundhouse [Review]

Less than three weeks after releasing his second album Not Waving, But Drowning, Benjamin Coyle-Larner better known by his stage name Loyle Carner, took to Camden’s Roundhouse for the headlining night of his UK tour.

With venues usually covered in expensive light displays, flashy backdrops and over the top props, Carner kept it simple and real. An armchair, a lamp, and a potted plant sat to one side of the stage as three football t-shirts (including his Umbro X Loyle Carner football jersey) hung along the back wall. The charmingly simple backdrop brought a sense of warmth and homeliness to the venue. Channeling the same cosy tones that Carner brought through his music.

Amongst the crisp beats of “Ice Water”, Carner leaped through the air and across the stage to make his entrance. Pulling off his hoodie to reveal his Umbro football jersey that matched that of the backdrop. Delivering lyrics as flawlessly as those that had been recorded for the album, he went directly into the second track of the evening “You Don’t Know”. Rebel Kleff emerged from behind the decks as he rapped his feature just as seamlessly as Carner had before him.

Packing a punch with his lyrics, the 24-year-old conveyed each verse in a nostalgic and impassioned manner, soft-centered rap soaked in a honey-toned delivery. Stood in a purple and white glow, Carner thanked the crowd; “I’ve only put out new music recently, so thank you very much for sticking with me and selling this place out, I appreciate it, let’s get into some old music man”.

Despite the reaction of the new album, which debuted in the UK at number five on the charts, nothing compared to the crowd reception when Carner played pieces from his Mercury-nominated debut album, Yesterdays Gone. His free and easy soul-baring flow fell out into the sea of fans who rapped alongside his huge hit “Stars & Shards”. Moments after asking for the crowds’ permission to bring a friend out, nu-jazz musician and producer Tom Misch presented himself, guitar in hand.

Playful jazz cords and mellow funky bass lines filled the venue as the pair gave a refreshing performance of their new track “Angel” followed by a crowd favourite “Damselfly”.

Carner made the crowd feel at ease throughout the duration of the night, keeping everyone up to date on the latest football scores and trickling in stories about his life with ever endearing directness.

The room fell hazy as Mercury Prize winner Sampha took to the stage to perform “Desoleil (Brilliant Corners)”. Carner sat on a speaker as he took in the breathtaking mellifluous vocals of Sampha. Classic hip-hop beats teamed up with warm piano loops created a totally refreshing way of storytelling, as rap felt more like poetry through the twinkling lights.

It’s no secret that Carner puts his success down to his mother, as he gave his latest album poetry bookends dedicated to the women herself. With the biggest roar of the night, his mother Jean Coyle-Larner stood center stage. The 1700 capacity venue fell silent and she recited her poem, “Dear Ben”. As Carner sat on the floor beside her, the utterly heartfelt moment brought tears to the crowd, as well as to Carner who stood up to kiss his mother on the head as she spoke. In an emotionally intimate moment, the crowd watched over as Carner picked her up and span her around the stage with the room erupting in cheers.

Carner wore his heart on his sleeve during the hour-long set of self-reflection, genial charisma and jazzed storytelling. Letting his fans into all corners of his life, he used his emotional intelligence to allow us into the deep and manful music when he was at his most vulnerable. Capturing the hearts of each individual in the crowd, Loyle Carner’s pure talent and ever-alluring charm will only continue to see the South London rapper hit new and well-deserved heights. 

Big Zuu – Content With Content Headline Show [Review]

Just six days after releasing his highly anticipated full-length mixtape ‘Content With Content’, Zuhair “Big Zuu” Hussain filled out O2’s Islington Academy for his headline show. Set to perform the new tape amongst some older classics, the West London star put his own stamp onto a traditional grime set.

Part of the new generation of Grime MC’s, the twenty-three-year-old brought a show to North London like no other. With multiple support acts to get the audience hyped, the crowd began filling out thick and fast as the time loomed for Zuu to take centre stage.

The simplicity of the night felt like a breath of fresh air within the scene as Zuu took to the stage in a no-frills manner. No build up, no drum roll, just walked out from behind the backstage curtains and introduced himself.

Whether it was down to nerves or sheer excitement, Zuu stared out into the crowd that he had managed to pull. Repeatedly thanking the audience for their attendance, love and support through his career before kicking off the night with Intro (Tension) from his new Content With Content tape.

Working the crowd effortlessly with his lovable charm and commanding presence, he cracked jokes whilst giving shout-outs to his mum who stood amongst the fans. His energy and enthusiasm seemed endless as he spat through his well-loved tracks buoying up the sing-along-crew to get involved with every chorus of his hits.

The atmosphere quickly turned electric as P Money ran out on stage to perform his verse in their track, Elevation. He wasn’t the only guest that Zuu had brought along to the headline show as JME walked out on stage only a few tracks later. Taking a seat on the stage JME declares “this is theatre, this is mad” as Zuu reveals to the audience how he used to watch JME perform in raves and has now reached a point in his career where he works alongside his idols.

As a fan watching on, you felt like a true part in Big Zuu’s journey. He spoke about how far he’s come and encourages the crowd to follow their own dreams. “This shit ain’t easy but as long as it goes to plan, you have to roll with it and not give up”, Zuu told the crowd time and again, as he explained the meaning behind his new mixtapes title.

The combination of thought-provoking grime lyrics alongside melodic hooks kept the set flowing in all the right places keeping the crowd wanting more. As his set came to close he called out for his ‘mandem’ to join him. A group of 20 strong flooded the stage including P Money, JME, Novelist and Zuu’s family.

Proving his melodic flow throughout his set he made sure that his bars weren’t lacking as the mic was chucked between artists in a ferocious flow over a seemingly endless stream of instrumentals in classic grime style.

With his combination of melodic beats and quick-fire delivery of impassioned lyrics, Big Zuu is not an act you should ever turn down an opportunity to see. Three projects deep into his career and the MC has so much more left to explore. Just getting started in experimenting with how far he can push the boundaries of his music, he is one to watch. He’s doing it B.I.G. 

Rex Orange County [Review]

Headline shows are usually full of glitz, expensive visuals, dancers, displays and everything in-between. For Alex O’Connor, more commonly known by his stage name Rex Orange County, this was not the case, and the night couldn’t have been more perfect for it.

At just 20 years old Rex has really made a name for himself within the world of music. Finding himself on Tyler, The Creators huge 2017 Flower Boy album, as well as dropping multiple projects of his own. The former Brit School student is hard to categorise within a genre. Channelling 70’s keyboard vibes alongside pop vocals, a brass band, the occasional rap and soulful guitar solos the Surrey-born star has carved his own path within the industry. Loved for his direct honestly on love and life growing up with the confusing emotions as a teenager his tracks became immediately relatable for many.

Queuing right around the back streets surrounding the Eventim Apollo were 1000’s of teens itching to get inside. Once within the venue, it felt like the whole capacity were compressed up to stage for fans to be as close to the young musician as they could, leaving a gaping hole towards the back where post-teens took their spot.

A support act is there to warm up the crowd in order to get everyone more excited for the headline act. This is something Rex decided to skip, but it worked. I’ve never been a part of a crowd that gave a warmer welcome to an artist taking the stage. Armed simply with a band, a disco ball and some faux floating clouds Rex’s performance quickly became one of the simplest but uppermost stunning performances imaginable.

Opening the night in the company of a string orchestra, Rex took to the mic to perform “Apricot Princess“. One of the biggest tracks from his 2017 Apricot Princess album which was on sale in vinyl form around the venue. Shortly into his performance, he brought out girlfriend and singer-songwriter, Thea Morgan-Murrell to accompany him in his “Sycamore Girl” track.

If you’re one to cry at a good performance, then Rex’s mid-set Alicia Keys No-One cover would have had you shedding a tear. Stood alone on stage with a guitar under a shimmering glitter ball, the acoustic cover had the whole crowd singing and swaying along.

It became apparent throughout the evening that the sold-out venue not only enjoyed Rex and his music but knew every single track word for word. Any lyric dropped or gap left by the performer was sung back as loud as ever by the crowd. Performing the majority of his Apricot Princess album as well as a couple from his bcos u will never b free project and all four of his big singles, each track received an equally huge response.

Yet to sign to a label, Rex is out there touring worldwide whilst simultaneously working on his next album at his own pace. We can only hope that he continues to work under his own restraints in order to bring the world his incomparable no-frills shows of excellence. 

50 Cent – Get Rich or Die Tryin’ Tour [Review]

The 8X Platinum Get Rich or Die Tryin’ album turned 15 this year and what better way to celebrate than a European anniversary tour. The number one Billboard 200 album became a part of history when it was crowned the tenth highest selling rap album of all time in America, the truly iconic album was worth celebrating. £65 were dropped on tickets for Londons O2 Arena ready to see 50 Cent take to stage.

Supporting Fifty was UK’s Maxwell Owusu Ansah, more commonly known as Lethal Bizzle. An artist, who like Fifty started out in the music scene over fifteen years ago. Bizzle put on hit after hit, throwing karate kicks up to his head matching the beat of his 2004 (but still very current and very well known hit) POW. Fifty’s choice of support act was not only clever but highly appreciated by the audience. Some artists bring out a small unheard of acts as a support and as much as its acknowledged that it might do the support acts career wonders, it does very little in terms of ‘hyping’ the crowd up for the main event when no-one knows any tracks. Not only did everyone know and revel in Bizzle’s performance but it really felt that it was Fifty’s way of recognising the strength that the current UK’s urban scene has to offer.

Despite the name of the tour being the Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ anniversary tour it became more of a Greatest Hits tour, this went under no complaints from fans. Unlike other anniversary tours such as Dizzee Rascals 2016 Boy In Da Corner performance, he performed the album cover to cover in order, this was different, and that was more than fine. For many in the crowd, it was their first time seeing 50 Cent perform live so receiving as much content spanning across his whole career was a gift well accepted by the crowd.

Still giving us Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ hits such as ‘In Da Club’, ‘Wanksta’, ‘P.I.M.P’ and the Eminem featuring ‘Patiently Waiting’ he also gave us ‘Candy’, ‘Disco Inferno’ and ‘Ayo Technology’ whilst chucking in Lil Kims ‘Magic Stick’ and a Bob Marley tribute track for good measure.

Backed by a screen playing clips from his music videos Fifty looked at home throughout the whole performance with an energy that never faded. As one of few ‘gangsta rappers’ left within the music scene he had the crowd jumping from start to finish. Despite moving on to have a clothing range and an acting career it’s clear the stage is still where he belongs.

The £65 tickets worked out to be around £1 per minute that Fifty spent on stage, some may say that’s steep but to witness such an iconic album performed by one of America’s top-selling artists of all time didn’t feel at all overpriced at all as you got to join thousands in taking part in Londons biggest Thursday night party.

Travis Scott – Reading Festival 2018 [Review]

I’ve been lucky enough to attend Reading Festival on seven different weekends. Over the years seeing many of my favourite festival performances in Little John’s Farm on Readings Richard Avenue. Kendrick Lamar 2015, Eminem 2017 and now up there with the greats, Travis Scott’s 2018 set.

After a summer full of heatwaves and scorching sun, it was due to come to an end. That end was moments before Scott took to the main stage Friday night. The heavens opened, drenching the crowd but the crowd didn’t thin. Stood in the icy rain fans filled up the stage ready to see Texas rapper take the mic.

Appearing on stage to an 80’s theme park advert for his latest album ASTROWORLD the 26-year-old kicked off his set with ‘STARGAZING’, following up with ‘CAROUSEL’ and ‘SICKO MODE’. Proving himself in clubs, theatres and arenas he’s now showing his worth to some of the largest crowds the world has to offer as he had the ocean of fans jumping in waves.

Scott is known as an auto-tuned rapper, something that is easily picked apart by critics. His auto-tune during his Reading performance was a perfect balance between altered pitch and his true self. It was a chance to really hear his vocals coming through. Something that unfortunately doesn’t transfer well from any recordings of the evening.

With Scott’s latest album ASTROWORLD snatching the number one spot on the Billboard 200 charts for two weeks, up against a very angry Nicki Minaj, everyone was expecting a show, and he delivered. More than anyone expected.

With an ever-growing catalogue of hits, it’s only a matter of time before Scott headlines the Main Stage and he’ll tackle the challenge painlessly. If you weren’t there, watch his set online. If you were there you’ll know that the recording doesn’t even come close to how incredible the set really was to watch live.

BROCKHAMPTON’s UK Debut – London [REVIEW]

When we talk about boy bands we all think of the classic groups like Backstreet Boys, Take That and One Direction. BROCKHAMPTON are here to break those boundaries whilst simultaneously living up to them.

The group consists of 14 twenty-something-year-olds who met back in 2015 on an online Kanye West forum. Since then, the group have gone onto create three albums within a year, sign to a major label and create a huge and very committed fan base. Not many events at KOKO can create a snaking queue of hundreds heading through Camden Town. Then again, not many bands can sell out two shows within thirty seconds of release upon their first trip to the UK either. 

BROCKHAMPTON kick off their first evening in London as a six-piece operation led onto the stage by Merlyn Wood as he belts the first verse of “1998 TRUMAN”, one of three singles from their upcoming album, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES.

In true boy band style the young men, all dressed in matching white outfits were met on stage by girly shrieks as each fan let the boys know who was their personal favourite. Just like all boy bands – we all have our favourite.

The groups’ frontman Kevin Abstract led the show throughout the course of the evening, egging on the crowd to open up pits within the venue during their more energetic tracks such as “GUMMY”, “QUEER” and “SISTER/NATION”. Then encouraging them to sing along with the groups’ more laid back tracks such as “BLEACH” where he conducted a sing-a-long of the chorus.

The set hit all sorts of highs but nothing topped that of the most intimacy with the crowd. Moments after Joba raised the roof showing off his vocal ability during “FACEBearface took centre stage with a guitar to perform a stripped back solo of “SUMMER”.

Other members swung on playground styled swings hung from the roof of the stage over an astroturfed floor, a tongue-in-cheek reference to typical boybands taking their seats on stools. Amongst mosh pits, teenage screams and floor shaking jumps, this offered three minutes of utter stillness for fans to sing their lungs out and truly take in the group that stood before them. It was a powerful moment as the group took full command of the sold-out venue.

Unlike most boy bands, the group doesn’t consist of a couple of reasonable vocals backed with a couple of good-looking faces but heaps of raw and unique talent. Each member bringing something special and rare to the group. The hip-hop collective is reimagining and recreating what it is to be a part of a boy band. Covering difficult topics within their music such as racism and homophobia with a spark that’s loved by so many. Anyone and everyone who managed to get a ticket to the sold-out nights bore witness to the start of something big. The best boy band since One Direction? Definitely.  

 

Skepta – Lovebox Festival [Review]

British summertime always picks its moments for a torrential downpour. This time it was minutes before Skepta’s headline performance of Lovebox Festival’s opening night. Crowds scattered to find shelter during the stage changeover from Diplo to the evening’s headliner. The moment the lights turned up and Boy Better Know’s DJ Maximum spun the first beat, the crowd flooded back braving the rain for a chance to see Skepta doing what he does best. 

Opening his set with his recent hit “Pure Water” the crowd began moving in waves jumping along to its catchy chorus and didn’t stop moving until the set was done. Reminding us of his vast work catalog he drops his highly familiar “Interlude” from Drakes More Life before transforming us back to 2012 with his hit “Ace Hood Flow” from the Blacklisted album.

The majority of the 35-year-olds set came from his Mercury Prize 2016 album Konnichiwa. Smashing through track after track the fans barely had time to breath trying to keep up with spraying his lyrics back.

It wouldn’t be a Skepta performance without binging some of the Boy Better Know family out. The main stage turned into a BBK takeover as guests on guests took to the mic. Lethal Bizzle, Shorty, Frisco, Jammer and D Double E were amongst the grime collective that took to the stage.

Performances of “What’s Going On“, “Detox” and BBK’s latest track “Athletes” kept the crowds on their toes as rainwater turned to steam rising from the mosh pits. With the best selling grime album of all time under his belt, the Tottenham-raised MC joked as he realised his set was full of “bare bangers”. The days highlight set finished on Skeptas recent feature on A$AP Rocky’s flute filled track “Praise The Lord (Da Shine)”.

Lovebox was previously a dance-orientated festival but it started to adjust itself to match the growing popularity within rap, hip-hop and now grime. Giving Skepta the headline slot on a previous dance stage could have been a risk, but the risk paid off as he proved himself more than worthy of his place. A London born sound performed back to the city. 

Childish Gambino – Lovebox Festival [Review]

Performing in England for his first time since 2015, Childish Gambino headlined and closed Londons Lovebox Festival Saturday, July 14th, 2018. Gambino’s unrefined spirit filled the stage in West London’s Gunnersbury Park, the festivals new location after its usual Hackney spot.

Surfacing to the crowd under bright white lights the 34-year-old opened his set with the leading track “Me and Your Mama” from his latest album Awaken, My Love!. Skipping, strutting and spinning his way around the stage before throwing himself to the floor, you realised what kind of set you were about to witness.

Interweaving between old and new, he performed tracks from two of his three studio albums (soon to become four), his Kauai mixtape, as well as just-released tracks from his Summer Pack. Both Summertime Magic and Feels Like Summer felt like they were written for innocent moments like these. A hot summer night surrounded by friends swaying along to beats drifting away in the breeze. They both made for truly magical moments within the set, as they gained a deeper meaning compared to first listen to them through phone speakers at home.

Some argued that the multi-talented star would be out of place as a headliner at this years Lovebox due to barely making charts in the UK. This clearly wasn’t the case as every word of his uncharted tracks Sober, V. 3005 and Redbone were belted back by devoted fans. 

For the majority of the set Gambino let his music do the talking but he made no attempt to cover up his political views as he told the crowd he was “very proud to see that big ballon” and that the UK “gotta fight for that shit” as he referred to the protests that took place the day before in central London. 

The set ended with his biggest hit to date, This Is America. It’s equally shocking but striking message swallowed the crowd as his eerie screams and overstated facial expressions were matched up with dauntless choreography.

Gambino stole the festival. He put out a performance overflowing with passion and character. His lyrics often filled with deep, meaningful messages about violence and black suffering felt powerful, positive and uplifting as his band brought funk-filled beats to accompany his raw and electric energy. His performance was truly captivating as he showed the UK that he wasn’t just a rapper or a singer but a true artist.

Octavian – Strawberries & Creem Festival [Review]

Bursting at the seams, the Strawberries & Creem Big Top Tent overflowed with fans eagerly awaiting the 22 year olds rappers performance. Breaking through in late 2017, the French born, South London raised star known as Octavian is already defying public expectations. 

His tracks have been described as R&B, Dancehall, Grime, House, and UK Hip-Hop, giving him a sound that everyone wants to hear. This was made obvious by the variety of the crowd that flocked to the stage to catch his mid afternoon performance. 

Joined on stage by House of Pharaohs’ Sam Wise, Octavian opened his set with their well known single – 100 Degrees. Accompanied by heavy beats, sharp piano and muffled drums the pairs lyrics were drowned out by fans bellowing back every word.

Throughout his work Octavian follows trends of Pop Rap as he switches from rapping to singing throughout his tracks. This is a formula used by the global hit maker and huge Octavian fan, Drake.

What makes Octavian so unique is his ability to conform to classic trends (such as the ones Drake uses) whilst simultaneously breaking them. Releasing unapologetically experimental tracks such as ‘Hands’ using a traditional trap autotune over heavy beats to create a track that sounds nothing like a trap piece at-all. He’s out there carving his own path within the industry resulting in a neoteric and imperative London sound.

Octavians set was short but by all means sweet. With half an hour on stage he reeled off his singles back to back leaving no time for fillers. The energy in the crowd continued to grow knowing what was about to come. Finishing his set on his huge track that put him on the map – Party Here. Fans chanting the opening lines with increasing volume as the DJ wheeled up the tune multiple times. Finally reaching the catchy chorus he danced around the stage to the sound of his track sung back to him by fans. His breathy and raspy delivery sounded effortless as he adapted to different lyrical conditions throughout the set.

With only a few months in the spotlight, his Strawberries and Creem set proved his skills to be worthy to extend to much bigger platforms. This is only the beginning of the young man’s rise in the industry so if you didn’t manage to catch his set in the fields of Cambridge then you better try to soon before he’s selling out arenas worldwide.

The Streets – The Darker The Shadow The Brighter The Light Tour [REVIEW]

Seven years ago at the Big Reunion – Skegness, The Streets brought down the curtain on their career. Five albums, ten years and twelve charting singles later the group were done. But their mark on history wasn’t. 

The Streets changed the way that the Brit’s perceived urban music. Their fusion of UK garage, alternative hip hop, and pirate radio rap / pop came together to form a sound that hadn’t been achieved before. 

The Birmingham group led by front man and lead vocalist Mike Skinner gave British rap a voice. During an interview with The Guardian Skinner said “I don’t have the drama of murder and violence that rap has, so I’ve always tried to make something dramatic from nothing”. This gave us lyrics about post-drinking kebab queues and greasy spoon cafeterias, creating relatable tracks that hip hop hadn’t given us before. 

Skinner kept himself busy during his time away from the Streets becoming an in-demand DJ alongside promotor Murkage Dave with a club nights known as ‘Tonga’. Years back Skinner said he’d only bring back The Streets if he was 40 and needed the money. Soon to turn 40, it seems that cash isn’t the reason he has decided to bring it all back. “Well, I don’t need the cash, otherwise I’d have done all the festivals, and the offers we got were insane.” But instead he was inspired by Dizzee Rascals Boy In Da Corner Anniversary Red Bull Gig. Skinner said “He (Dizzee) said at one point, ‘I know this means a lot to you,’ and it felt like it was his way of saying, ‘But I’ve moved on.’ And I totally get that. I’m gonna celebrate the past”. And thats what he is doing.

Tickets went on sale back in October 2017 ready for the six (turned seven) night comeback tour starting in their hometown of Birmingham, rounding off on three consecutive nights in Brixton’s O2 Academy with tickets selling out in seconds.

After witnessing their final festival performance at Reading & Leeds back in 2011 I never thought I’d get the chance again, but there I was, heading on over to London to watch their comeback.

Supported by Birminghams upcoming grime artist Jaykae, you could already get a feel for the energy and excitement that was buzzing round the venue awaiting the main act.

The crowd erupted as the groups frontman waltzed on stage to their 2002 hit – Turn the Page. Stood on a black box centre stage Skinner looked right at home. Chatting away to the fans in the first few rows like it was nothing. Teasing us about getting into the crowd and joining in the mayhem. 

Less than three tracks into the set he had kept his word, as he began flying over head held up by fans, still managing not to miss a lyric or drop a beat. With pride in his voice he announced setting the record for the highest beer consumption within the venue as the two pint cups shot overhead showering the crowd in beer. 

The set was exactly what we were told it was going to be, their greatest hits. Track after track it seemed to get better and better. Banger after banger were sung back to the group from a sea of fans. Smartly placed tracks meant the energy never dropped for a second as the group followed up a mosh-pit fulled anthem by a sing-a-long ballad for a breath of fresh air.

Repeatedly showering the crowd in champagne Skinner brings his four piece band and vocalist Kevin Mark Trail out of retirement to encourage scenes of havoc, demanding that Brixton was to make this Thursday night the new weekend. Sloshing beers flew overhead in agreement.

Despite years away from live performances the groups’ energy hasn’t weakened, if anything just developed, as they ended the night with a bang on their hit ‘Fit But You Know It’. With such a massive reaction to the groups return, maybe there’ll be more to come.