Loyle Carner


It’s commonplace for fans to attend concerts dressed like their hero onstage – we’ve all done it – and the plethora of vintage football shirts in honour of South London rapper Loyle Carner is a pleasing sight.

His recent guestlist-for-retro-footy-tops (international, size L) offer has made the press recently, as has his wonderful decision to remove someone from his gig for sexist behaviour. Even without hearing a note it’s not hard to see why so many are taking the boy born Benjamin Coyle-Larner to their hearts.

There was justifiable buzz around his Mercury Prize-nominated debut record Yesterday’s Gone, released in January this year. Its first track, ‘The Isle of Arran’, is a perfect show opener; a huge, soulful gospel chorus and blinding lights present a perfect backdrop for the Croydon-born MC’s combination of sincerity and charm. Though surely unintentional, the lights and choir combo is strangely reminiscent of watching Spiritualized.

It’s a brave move to pen so many songs about love, loss and manhood which speaks to the wealth of wisdom Carner possesses, borne out of an absent biological father and the premature death of his step-father and musical inspiration. These life struggles provide a different authenticity to grime artists like Stormzy and Skepta, a credibility stemming from a more universal struggle than the street-focused world from which grime derives.

The theme of family runs consistently through the show, and the natural bard on stage has the audience in the palm of his hand. From the poem penned and performed by his mum to the heartfelt tribute to his late step-father, you see a glimpse of a supportive home life so rarely vocalised in hip-hop. It is refreshingly honest, but it’s Carner’s natural cool that shifts potentially cloying commentary to essential listening.

Equally impressive is just how natural Carner is onstage. It’s perhaps unsurprising for a former Brit School attendee, but for such a young artist to hold attention so fearlessly is impressive nevertheless. There is a fan-come-good feel to his performance, an innate understanding of what a crowd want.

His set demonstrates his creativity often, from freestyling wilfully to adapting ‘Florence’, the tender paean to the sister he never had, to a beefed up anthem. It’s unexpected but it works a treat, as does the crowd gleefully replacing Tom Misch for his part in the summery, Finley Quaye-esque ‘Damselfly’.

‘No CD’ brings the house down; the big singalong everyone is waiting for. It’s an action-packed hour from an ambitious MC with limitless potential. Yesterday’s gone and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Loyle Carner: Official | Facebook | Twitter

Joseph Curran

Features Editor and gig reviewer