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. 

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