By Ella Clucas
With tickets selling out in just a matter of minutes, Loyle Carner’s latest tour for his second album Not Waving, But Drowning has been highly anticipated since it went on sale in the summer of this year. Having signed up for presale, as all dedicated fans do when tickets fly that fast, I was over the moon when I managed to cop a few for myself and some friends. It was perfectly timed, too, with the Cardiff date falling nicely in the middle of Reading Week. Needless to say the gig couldn’t come fast enough.
When the day rolled around I had my merch tee ready to go, and found myself in the local nursing pints of Guinness (Carner’s personal favourite) before doors opened at 7pm. Desperate to get a good spot we headed in early, catching the opening set from the gorgeous Arlo Parks; I’d not heard of her before then, but was pleasantly surprised by her talent. Opening acts are usually unpredictable, with some bearing no resemblance to the music you’re paying to see, but with a gorgeous tone and a great band backing her, she was well worth a watch.
We grabbed a place in the long line for fresh merchandise, a couple of pints from the bar, then secured a decent spot from which to watch the show. The great thing about Y Plas as a venue is its smaller size, which lends itself to more intimate performances. You could come in last and still catch a good view of the stage. I ended up standing behind some taller boys – admittedly not ideal, but we shorter folk tend to expect this in most events. The crowd did surprise me: there was a lot of pushing and shoving around where we were standing, with arguments breaking out after Arlo Parks finished her set. This was unexpected considering the laid back nature of Carner’s music, but eventually subsided once his set began.
Opening with the brilliant ‘Ice Water’, Carner emerged onto the stage with huge energy and the crowd began to sing along almost immediately. It was the perfect song to get the audience going, and kicked everything off to a very exciting start. The set list was a mix of old and new, as Carner performed songs from both Not Waving, But Drowning and his first album Yesterday’s Gone along with classics like ‘The Seamstress’ and ‘The Isle of Arran’. We were also lucky enough to catch the debut of his new song, featuring fellow artist and best pal Rebel Kleff. Carner is known for the heartfelt nature of his tracks, some of which are more spoken word poetry than rap lyrics. His flawless flow dipped in and out of a capella as he delivered ‘+44’ and other extended verses to an infatuated crowd, who were listening so intently you could have heard a pin hit the floor. He had the room in the palm of his hand, waving and swaying in time.
Carner is definitely one of those artists that live up to their records in live performance. Though names like Jorja Smith and Tom Misch were mentioned, Cardiff saw no special guests (those with tickets to the Alexandra Palace show might have better luck). That being said, the show hardly missed them. Carner holds an overwhelming stage presence, and though his singing does leave something to be desired, his flow is relentless; unstoppable. Finishing strong with the crowd pleasing ‘NO CD’, the set left the audience high on bass guitar and adrenaline.
I’ve been listening to Loyle Carner since before his first album release, and had been trying to see him live since then but had never had any luck. Let me tell you, my luck was about to change. After the gig finished we decided to wait outside the Union by the tour bus, and two hours later the man himself emerged from those back doors. He was more than happy to chat, give signatures and take pictures with fans, which can’t be said for every artist of his success. Though he sadly denied the possibility of a Glastonbury performance in the coming summer, I’m thrilled to say he was unmistakably genuine. After years of listening, trying for tickets, watching his performances through screens, I can confirm that Loyle Carner was, undoubtedly, worth the wait.