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.

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.

Dr. Dre Presents Anderson .Paak – Apple Music [REVIEW]

Throughout history there are times where the lucky few get to say “I was there” for rare magical moments in music. Inside O2 Academy Brixton this week was one of those moments, and I get to say it. I was there.

Brandon Paak Anderson or as we all know him, Anderson .Paak took to the academy stage for the one-night only concert sponsored by Apple Music (their first major event since stopping the Apple Music festival), his latest single ’Til It’s Over soundtracks the Apples HomePod advert.

The free .Paak show advertised itself as ‘Presented by Dr. Dre’. On route to the show a close friend and I debated the chance of Dre actually appearing at the show and settled with an almost certain – never.  The last UK Dre performance happened four years ago when he joined Eminem at Wembley, leaving the likelihood of getting a performance from the previous NWA member slim to none. But it happened.

The crowd jumped in waves as the Compton rapper performed his 2001 tracks ‘Still D.R.E’ and ‘The Next Episode’ with .Paak bouncing along as if to be his hype man. It’s not the first time Dre has crashed .Paak’s set as he joined him on stage during his 2016 Cochella set sending fans nuts over in the States too. Dre told the crowd “This man here is defined to be a superstar” and he’s not wrong.

.Paak poured out infectious energy into the crowd during his hour long set where he went between jumping around the stage, to taking to the drum kit. His fusion of hip-hop and smooth jazz making for a truly incomparable sound. The set ran through both old and new tracks including the dreamiest cover of his track produced by KaytranadaGlowed Up’ mixed in with some of R.KellysIgnition’. Adoring fans belted along to each and every lyric as he showered the venue with both talent and charisma.

I’d read a review on a previous .Paak performance which mentioned that he was able to hold a crowds attention like no other artist. That you could feel in sync with the energy on stage, completely locked in to every word, every funky beat, every hypnotic move and I wasn’t sure If I understood what this meant until after the show. Now I get it. His charming ways had you falling in love with him and his music for every moment you were in his presence.

His performance was truly memorable, not for just the few thousand fans that managed to witness the madness live before them, but as one of those magical musical moments that will go down in history.

Stefflon Don – Don Meets Dons Tour [REVIEW]

When it comes to current Urban music men take the forefront. Very few woman who have popped up on the scene have made an impression on rap fans like the men do. It’s a fact. You check the charts, the stats, the ticket sales, men do it better. But times are changing, with the rising stars of Little Simz, Ray BLK, Nadia Rose, IAMDDB, and Lady Leshurr all coming through, it feels like the females are about to change the charts, all led by one woman. Stefflon Don.

Coincidentally her sold-out headline show at Londons Kentish Town Forum fell on International Woman’s Day and it felt extremely fitting. The 2000+ accommodating venue didn’t feel big enough for the mountainous amounts of stage presence and charisma that Stephanie Allen, or more well known as her stage name – Stefflon Don brought to north London that night.

Stefflon brought glitz to the stage as she appeared in a jewelled body suit accompanied by knee high boots and a tumbling platinum weave followed by all-female backing dancers. She breaks boundaries as she reels off her bawdy American gangsta rap lyrics and attitude executed with such glamour and prestige.

Her ‘Intro’ track on her Real Tings Mixtape speaks volumes about the critics’ choice nominee and her style. Lyrics such as “Ghetto but Elegant” and “Why play safe, I got nothing to lose, nah just something to prove” gives you an insight into her unapologetic entrance into the new generation of female MC’s.

The 26 year old rapper brings a blend of dancehall, afrobeats, hip-hop and pop altogether in what felt to be one giant celebration of sexuality and her city. With her gutsy “take me or leave me” attitude it’s no surprise that herself and her music have managed to break out of London and into other countries as she claimed a No 7 spot with her hit single “Hurtin’ Me” in the US. Working with huge names such a Jerimah, Future and Sean Paul, Stefflon continues to spread her unique sound.

The hour long set was filled with guests, glitter, choreography and incredible backing projections which would undoubtably be transferable to arenas ten times the size. Her errorless performance showed powerful potential alongside an empowering taster of what Stefflon Don has to offer, not just to London but the world. She has earned her seat on the throne and won’t be coming down any time soon. The Don is on her dawning.

Disciples Live Show [REVIEW]

If you’ve entered any club scene in the past three years there’s no doubt that you would of heard of the Disciples. The south London trio have given us some of the greatest dance tracks to soundtrack your summers. Working with huge names such as Calvin Harris and David Guetta they’re not a group to ignore.

Despite their huge tracks smashing the charts and getting festival crowds jumping in a number of countries their live shows are pretty non existent. Until this week. The BRIT nominated trio were ready for their biggest headline show yet. February 22nd in Camden’s famous KOKO venue was the place to be and it was a night for them and every fan in there to remember.

The crowds arrived early to the venue all in the hope of getting as good of a spot to the the sell out show as possible. With the main room full and balcony bursting it was time for the platinum selling team to take to the stage.

With a sea of hands raised to the skies the group performed hit after hit including Daylight, How Deep Is Your Love and On My Mind. Centre stage stood the hitmakers lead singer, Nathan Duvall who’s presence stole the full attention of all who had attended. With his distinct sound it was impossible not to join in with belting out the popularly known lyrics.

The energy of the crowd remained high throughout the set as the attention of each fan inside the venue became hooked on the catchy beats. Each individual from front to back seemed to be having the times of their lives and it was no surprise why. The faultless set flew by and before the crowd knew it the encore was over and lights were on.

With their new single 48HRS recently released and rumours of an album to come in the first half of the year their 2018 is shaping up to be a pretty busy one.

If you get the chance to catch the flawless London trio then it’s your lucky year as they’re already booked in for a few festivals over the season including, Snowbombing, Hideout and Creamfeilds and they’re not an act to be missed.

Khalid – The American Teen Tour [REVIEW]

The moment that Khalid hit the stage at Hammersmith Eventim Apollo it was suddenly clear what kind of crowd you were in. Teenage girls screaming to deafening decibels echoed around the arena. Despite the young girls all huddled up front as close to the stage as they possibly could, the further back you went the older the crowd became ready to hear the debut album relatable by many.

Khalid’s album ‘American Teen’ became so popular as it’s able to reach multiple demographics. His catchy tracks such as ‘Young, Dumb and Broke’ and ‘8TEEN’ speak to everyone. Fans either relating to a similar time in their life of reminiscing on what life was like as a teen. With lyrics such as “Oh shit, I just graduated. I don’t have any obligations. So let’s have a little fun”, “Because I’m 18 and I still live with my parents” and “So let’s do all the stupid shit that young kids do” it’s easy to bring yourself back to a point in your life (either then or now) which you’ve thought the exact thoughts that Khalid serenades about.

With the young teen recently turning 20 I can only commend Khalid on his performance on his sell out tour. I read multiple reviews that his stage presence was ‘appalling’ and I just simply can’t agree. He leaped across the stage flying out kicks and jumps left, right and centre looking increasingly more confident as the show went on. To be on your first world tour before you’re considered a legal adult in your own country he should be allowed some leeway for mistakes which in good time and experience will all fall into place. Although despite little interaction with the crowd I can’t say there was any faults. Khalid gave a performance of which to be proud of.

With his mixture of Soul, R&B, Hip Hop topped off with a single with EDM producer Marshmello, the young performer from Texas really worked well next to his talented band to give a show for all to enjoy. Its safe to say that not one person in the venue was there against their will as each track was drowned out behind the fans singing. Even those at that back who were only able to see the stage though phone screens recording the scenes in-front of them, didn’t let the energy drop for a single second.

With an already huge fan base, hit debut album and a sold out world tour under his belt this is only the beginning for the American Teen.

Kendrick Lamar – The DAMN. Tour [REVIEW]

Kendrick Lamar last graced the UK with a tour back in 2013 with his good kid, m.A.A.d city album. Unless you managed to catch a glimpse of him on a festival stage in-between, this was the first time for many British fans to witness the Compton rapper live in all his greatness.

The set was all and nothing at the same time and it worked perfectly. A dramatic production most likely inspired by his time touring with Kanye West subsisted of ninja battles, martial arts, short films, special effects and stage changes. A production more preeminent than any show I’ve ever seen but nothing was enough to grab your attention away from the lyrical master for even a second. A series of “Kung Fu Kenny” intermissions left you with enough time to really appreciate the genius that stood before you.

Following the release of his triumphant fourth studio album DAMN. last spring Lamar kicked off the show with two hits from the album ‘DNA.’ and ‘ELEMENT.’ before hitting the crowd with the funk of his 2015 hit ‘King Kunta’.

With a further seven tracks off the BET & AMA winning album performed it truly helped you to process how his latest masterpiece became the critics favourite album of 2017. DAMN. became 2x platinum certified within months of its release and it was clear to see why as Lamar spat his socially conscious poetry to a flawless standard.

The faultless set of new DAMN. tracks and classic throwbacks shot by as he ended the show on his Grammy winning hit – Humble. Fans yelled the well known lyrics without the accompaniment of a backing track leaving Lamar to soak in the moment as he stood in silence.

Lamar gave every ounce of energy he had and put it into his performance of pure entertainment executed with finesse which didn’t go unnoticed by the arena of roaring fans. If I had to wait another five years for a return of a UK studio tour like that one, then I would be happy to.