The last time Loyle Carner stepped out on the Bristol O2 academy stage he was a support act for one of his idols, Nas. Just over a year later the Lambeth-born rapper now returns to this ‘memorable’ venue with incredible Mercury nominated debut album ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ and a cooking school for children with ADHD among his many accomplishments.
Elisa Imperilee and Srigala provide a sweet warming up of the crowd, clearly chuffed with their chance to play to such a huge audience and capitalising on this listenership when a particularly tall crowd member asks how to find them on Spotify. Excitement builds in the interval between acts and the homely stage design is starting discussions all around the academy.
Loyle takes to the stage to the tune of ‘The Isle of Arran’, a perfect intro tune if there ever was one. Once the first song ends the excitement peaks and Loyle proceeds to capture hearts with an incredible mixture of gallivanting stage presence and pure modesty. You get the sense that he has always had this ability, referenced by the lyric he adds after performing ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’ … “but the size of this stage”. The setlist is packed with hits from his debut album, the sing along beauty ‘Damselfy’ and boom bap banger ‘NO CD’ performed with producer and best friend Rebel Kleff.
Before each tune we are given a brief background, when it was written, who he wrote it for and why. Through these stories and the beautifully crafted songs in which they play out, we are taken on an emotional rollercoaster from laughter to grief to romance and nostalgia and back again. Carner is incredibly candid about his life, sharing with the crowd a be-a-u-tiful poem he wrote to ‘patch things up’ at home. There is no guard put up to shield himself from the audience, you can see how each song affects him. This was especially the case for a song missed out from his shows for a long while ‘Cantona’, a tribute to his late father. Taking a seat on the stage’s large leather airmchair, Carner performs the song followed in succession by ‘BFG’ another homage to his dad. At this point half the crowd probably need a seat too, some wiping tears and others standing silently in stunned admiration and respect.
A Loyle Carner show is a wonderfully positive experience filled with a mixture of head-bopping hip-hop and poems that make you want to call your mum more. The crowd, students and trendy-40-somethings alike, all left the venue with big grins and warm hearts, and rightly. “The world is his, that scribble of a boy”.