Brixton Academy – 6th October
“This is the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me!” Loyle Carner exclaims shortly after entering the stage to a roar of cheers. Tonight’s sold-out Brixton Academy show acts both as a celebration and a homecoming for the South London rapper, who turns twenty-three that day and, as he tells the crowd shortly after bounding on stage to the Gospel intro of ‘The Isle of Arran’, finally gets to play a venue he used to go to growing up.
Much has been written about the backstory of Loyle Carner – or Ben Coyle-Larner as he’s known to his family and friends. His Mercury-nominated debut Yesterday’s Gone, released earlier this year, is a striking collection of confessional hip-hop, filing tracks about texting girls and paying back student loans alongside touching tributes to his late stepfather, who passed away in 2014, and confessions of how much he loves his mum. It’s this theme of family which forms the centrepiece to Carner’s live show in a way that feels heartfelt and genuinely moving.
Performing with his late stepfather’s red football shirt in one hand, the same shirt that forms the backdrop image behind him, and a mic in the other, he effortlessly runs through the tracks from his debut in his distinct South London accent. A performer full of both charisma and credibility, he bounds around the stage throughout, full of energy on both his slower and more upbeat tracks. ‘No CD’, with its funk-driven guitar riff is a particular crowd-pleaser whilst ‘Florence’, in which he pays tribute to a sister he never had, is a particularly moving moment.
He looks visibly overwhelmed towards the end of the almost hour-long set when the 5,000-strong crowd sings him ‘Happy Birthday’ in unison as his mum arrives on stage with a cake and candles. As the lights fade out to ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ – a track written by his stepdad shortly before his death – it’s hard not to feel both emotional and elated.