When someone offers you free tickets to something, nine times out of ten it’s for something that you could probably die happy without seeing but you’ll go anyway because whatever it’s free. However, when someone offers you a free ticket to go and see Loyle Carner at the Exeter Phoenix, now that’s a whole different ball game. A ‘there can be miracles when you believe’ kind of ball game. I hate to be annoying and smug, but yes that was the oh-so-difficult position I found myself in. And yes it was incredible. And yes I’m going to tell you all about it.
I am going on the assumption that you are all familiar with Loyle Carner, however if you are not, as the poster-boy of this blog, Emma’s review of his debut album Yesterday’s Gone should get you up to speed. Also consider moving out from under your rock.
As always with gigs, a good supporting act can really help to set the tone for the main course, and Loyle’s choice of starter was definitely appetizing. Made up of Elisa Imperilee and her partner in production Srigala, the Brixton duo’s combination of hip-hop and R&B was similar in style to that of Loyle’s. I was particularly impressed with Imperilee, whose retro voice reminded me of Amy Winehouse’s rich tones, and glided over Srigala’s dreamy beats. Although seemingly shy up on stage, their humble presence was endearing, and their songs definitely made up for Srigala’s mild blunder in addressing us as ‘Norwich’ instead of Exeter. Easy mistake, they do both have beautiful cathedrals and an abundance of cobbled streets.
And then came Loyle. The beauty of a human being that burst on to the stage with his partner in crime Rebel Kleff to the glorious, choral sounds of The Isle of Arran. Throughout the entire performance, he maintained that electricity and enthusiasm that makes gigs so special. He had the power to completely turn up the audience with songs such as Stars & Shards and Ain’t Nothing Changed, and then leave us in an emotional trance when he performed Cantona, sat in the armchair of his home recreated on stage. Not to mention his unbelievable freestyling that he just casually threw in on the back of one of his songs like a TV chef’s ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’ ordeal.
And yet, what makes Loyle Carner so special, and I can guarantee that any gig-goer of his will say the same thing, is his unequivocal humility and his ability to make everyone in the room feel included in what he does. In that sense, his performance was an exact reflection of his album and how he truly values all of the different people that either influenced or helped him to create each song. The stories he told before each song reminded me of how wholesome his music is, especially when he gave us the context for Florence, a song that he wrote for his increasingly famous mum, Jean, and the daughter/sister that they never had. On a less emotional note, before groovifying the hot chocolate FUDGE out of Damselfly, him talking about his bromance with Tom Misch and how THEY HAVE NEW MUSIC COMING OUT SOON (!!!!!) set my heart and soul in to fits.
Highlights of the night? Number 1: Loyle and Rebel Kleff 100% shutting the place down with No CD. Number 2: Loyle sharing the most intimate and heart-warming moment with a fan on someone’s shoulders. With less than a few metres separating them, they rapped the final parts of No Worries together. Everyone in the audience could feel some sort of magical connection going on there and I’m pretty sure I got goose bumps from it. Kudos to the legend who knew every single lyric, and kudos to Loyle for sharing that with a fan, and, in turn, everyone else.
So yeah. 10/10. 5 stars. A*. Winner winner chicken dinner.
Thank you for bringing your album to life Loyle Carner, and letting everyone who was in that audience be a part of your music.
Big love people,