Loyle Carner, Babeheaven, Nelson: 24 Kitchen Street, Liverpool

Loyle Carner at 24 Kitchen St

Loyle Carner at 24 Kitchen St

Manchester United sing-a-longs at 24 Kitchen Street. Getintothis’ John Gibbons is witness to a transcendent gig by Loyle Carner. 

It’s gone 11p.m., Loyle Carner is probably meant to be off stage by now, but instead he’s leading the sell out crowd in a rendition of the Manchester United song Ooh, Aah, Cantona. In Liverpool. He then finishes on a song he says he’s only recently started performing, but the fans down the front know all the words anyway. ALL the words. To call this gig a triumph would be an understatement.

Hours before the wonderful space of 24 Kitchen Street is already pretty full for opening act Nelson. Apparently his performance at last month’s GIT Award Launch was his first ever gig, but he shows no signs of nerves as he immediately beckons the crowd to move forward into the semi circle in front of the stage that, for a support act, might as well be filled with lava for all its apparent attractiveness to the audience.

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Nelson is worth listening to though, in every way, and people are soon getting as close as possible to hear his slick rhymes. Songs like January demonstrate his relaxed, old school style, reminiscent of acts like Jurassic 5 in how he splits syllables to create unexpected rhythms. His Scouse accent is understated, but ever-present, just like the influences to the city he grew up in are in his music. Before one song he mentions that he wrote it on the 82 bus. All too soon it’s over, but a new exciting artist should always leave you wanting more.

Nerves are strangely more apparent for nationwide support Babeheaven. Sometimes nerves can be charming, but in this instance it seems to hold the performance back.

It’s easy to be suspicious about bands that have too obviously been thrown together by a manager, as well as band names that might get cause trouble if they pop up in a Google history search. The lead singer can obviously hold a tune, and some of the songs are pleasant enough, although it’s possible  they didn’t work too well in the overall context of the night. Nelson had got people excited, the (excellent, by the way) DJ had the audience ramped up and then we got some mid-tempo R&B that left us a bit confused. Maybe on another night it would have worked better, but not tonight.

We’re all here to see Loyle Carner anyway. Just when people are starting to wonder where he is, he bounces onstage with a wide smile and a Liverpool shirt with “Carner 10” on the back. He seems genuinely taken aback that the gig has sold out. In turn, everyone seems thrilled with his delight and it all leads to a love in that lasts way into the night.

He’s a hard man not to warm to, a rapper who wears his heart on his sleeve, or the sleeve of the shirt he carries in his hand throughout. His songs are emotive and personal, he’s straight into BFG, which contains the memorable hook “Everybody says I’m fucking sad. Of course I’m fucking sad, I miss my fucking dad.” Each word is spat out with venom.

But to imagine the show to be gloomy would be wrong. Songs like Ain’t Nothing Changed deal with issues such as poverty and debt which are prevalent in inner city life, but still manage to be uplifting. Lyrics referencing his childhood are clearly full of sadness but also of love. Despite what he might have been through he is still full of hope. Hope which transcends the music.

Then we get to the shirt which has been in his hand throughout. It’s an Eric Cantona shirt which belonged to his dad, or at least the man he sees as his father, who was a musician too. They always said they would perform together, but unfortunately his father died before they got the chance to. So he carries the shirt with him as way of ensuring that they are together when he is onstage.

This is why a Scouse crowd end up singing the name of the man who scored the winning goal against Liverpool in the 1996 FA Cup Final, because Loyle has asked us to and because we’re now all mates. The skill of a rapper, of any musician really, is to take listeners on a journey, shine a light onto who they are and the roads they’ve walked. To make you feel closer to them by the end. There aren’t many who could have done that as well in an hour than Loyle Carner did in Liverpool.

Photos by Getintothis’ John Johnson