Music Critic Sadie Iddenden reviews Loyle Carner’s O2 Academy Birmingham show on the 8th March, describing Carner as ‘never disappointing his fans’
South London-born, Loyle Carner at the young age of 28 has taken Britain by storm. After dropping his first album Yesterday’s Gone in 2017, Carner has consistently released well-acclaimed music which deals with themes of hardship, family relations and romance. An impressive lyricist, his latest album Hugo focuses on the complexity of his identity as a mixed-race man with a tricky relationship with his father. With such solemn subject matters, I was intrigued to see how his latest UK tour for Hugo would take shape.
Performing at the O2 Academy, Loyle Carner fans eagerly waited for his appearance while listening to Wesley Joseph. Coincidentally enough, Joseph was born in Birmingham, and the crowd enjoyed his tracks between chatting away and getting drinks at the bar. Promising to be on stage at 9 pm, the impatient crowd swiftly chanted a football chant replaced with ‘Loyle’ at 9.02 pm. Opening with ‘Hate’, a single from Hugo, everyone cheered happily as he began to rap, grinning from ear to ear.
The stage was set up modestly; his band were on one side and his DJ on the other side. A streetlamp, like one you would find down any city street, was to the side, which he occasionally leant on and soaked up the atmosphere of the crowd. Sometimes it can be hard for singular artists to fill the presence of a stage, but for Carner, this was not the case. He eagerly walked up and down the stage, while occasionally going into the stage and embracing fans who knew rapped all the songs alongside him.
Loyle Carner never disappoints his fans; between newer tracks of Hugo he performed classics such as ‘Ain’t nothing changed’ and ‘Still’. While none of his featured artists like Jorja Smith or Sampha was pulled onto the stage to perform, the crowd helped by singing at the top of their lungs for these choruses. A beautiful moment happened before singing ‘loose ends’ where Carner opened up that this was now his favourite song because it demonstrated how he has overcome his own toxic masculinity to write about tough times he’s gone through. Reflection has always been a prominent aspect of his lyrics.
What is most endearing about Carner is how grateful he is. Standing there smiling, he ecstatically told the people of Brum how he has always felt at home and welcomed in Birmingham. Between new tracks from Hugo, he informed the crowd he is now himself a father and can finally forgive his own. Touching moments like this were matched with heated rants about his anger at the tory government for letting young men like himself die in the streets due to knife violence. The crowd cheered in unison with his simple statement of the ‘f**k the tories’. A motto which undeniably speaks out to his crowds.
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