- Live Review
- 21 Feb 23
In the second of three sold-out Dublin shows, the award-winning hip-hop star Loyle Carner proclaims the night the best show he's played, accredited to the amazing crowd response: "This city is magic, its' people are magic."
Those who follow the UK hip-hop star Loyle Carner know he's in Dublin this week on tour for his new album, Hugo. Yesterday, at his second of three Vicar Street performances, he certainly hammered home why he has so many accolades to his name.
Even ahead of the opening act hitting the stage, early arrivals trickled in gravitated to the stage, hypnotically compelled. An eager air to the room filled with laughter and chatter - it was relaxed in an easy, boisterous way as people came looking for a fun night.
A whopping cheer when the lights went down heralded R&B artist Wesley Joseph's arrival on-stage. The instant the music began to play, people were dancing in the tight swarm near the stage.
The energy didn't abate during the intermission. The second the lights went down the crowd was a buzzing hum of excitement. The shadowy hints of the band stepping in place compounded it, and the minute dragged on before the loud opening chords of 'Hate' started.
Followed closely by the roar of the crowd, soon enough Loyle Carner appeared, bathed in the red stage lights.
Instantly singing along to the tracks, the crowd only got louder during the show. Fans were constantly reaching their hands out into the air, bobbing their bodies to the rhythm. Those that had the space were waving and dancing. In the balcony, even those that had seats stood, unable to contain their excitement.
'Hate' ended with the Lambeth-native back lit in golden light during the last lyric: "The man that flew / all away from the sun. It was an artistic opening performance antecedent to transferring into the second song of the evening, 'Plastic.' It earned him howling cheers from across the pit.
"My name is Loyle Carner. Thank you very much for having us back, let's keep going."
'Plastic' quickly became 'You Don't Know' which became 'Georgetown.' The 28-year-old dedicated it to the American DJ artist, Madlib, who produced the song.
After 'Desoliel (Brilliant Corners)' and 'Let it Go,' he delivered a crowd-pumping speech.
"I was saying last night that this city is my favourite place to play in the world, no question. No question!"
"Every time we go on tour, the first night of the tour is in Dublin and then we have to wait basically a whole year and a half to come back to Dublin to have another experience like the experience we had."
Commenting on the previous night's sold-out show, which was an addition to the original two shows as a result of those dates getting sold out, Carner encouraged the audience to get loud.
"Last night was maybe one of the best nights we've ever had but now it feels like tonight could be better. I don't know - it's up to you! It's up to you."
The resulting acclamation got a confirming response from the hip-hop and rap star.
"This next song goes out to Tom Misch" signalled to eager fans 'Angel' was about to play, and suddenly they knew how to deliver on the requested "best show ever." When the iconic line "you're my angel," came up, Carner pointed the mic to the audience to capture their contribution.
'Damselfly' got similar attention, fans "helping out" Loyle sing the fan-favourite.
Next, Loyle played 'Yesterday' before he hyped up 'Speed of Plight,' which had the "potential to be the best one" of the night. The whole building shook as people stomped their feet and danced in place, the vibrations echoing in the floor.
Turning around, Carner directed the ovation to his amazing back-up band behind him ahead of trying to address the audience.
"Is the world moving fast for you as well?"
Trying being the key word, as the rising congratulatory, energy-filled chant rose up - the kind often found at sporting games. The interruption was quickly forgiven, ordaining the night the best show the hip-hop and rap artist has ever played.
"Yo, this is the one! This is the one - I told you. This place is magic, this city is magic, its people are magic. This is magic."
'Homerton' was dedicated to the person he "misses the most" when away: his son, who was born in 2020.
"We've been away ever since my album came out. My album is out, by the way, it's called Hugo. I don't know if you've heard. If you've got that I appreciate it."
"A lot's changed for me since my first time making music," the hip-hop artist continued. "The main thing is I'm a father now. Shout out to the moms and dads in the house, I appreciate you. If you're lucky enough to have one that you're close to, when you leave this place fucking text them because parents need the love man, I'll tell you that."
In keeping true with honouring parents, Carner included a recorded track of his father's voice in 'Homerton,' which he pointed while performing.
Fatherhood wasn't the only topic of the evening. Featuring the live guest performance of Athian Akec on the outro, 'Blood on my Nikes,' Carner hyped up the young activist and musician's strong character.
"Athian wrote that when he was sixteen-years-old. He had a chance to speak in Parliament for one minute, he chose to speak about knife crime and he spoke eloquently and beautifully and poetically and generously about a feeling most of the grown men in that fucking building in government can't speak about. So make some noise for Athian Akec."
The next comment certainly garnered laughter from the audience, although he was quick to reassure that Athian "would never say that, but I will say that."
"Quite genuinely, fuck the Tories!"
"I sat in the crib one day, in the studio," he recalled, thinking back on working with the young artist on 'Blood on my Nikes.' "And Athian looked at me and said 'Listen, you can either be relevant or you can be revolutionary. We chose revolutionary."
'Still,' next in the set-list and the UK artist's favourite song, was one he said he was nervous to share.
"I've always been scared to release my music because it means a lot to me, but that was the song I was the most scared to release because when I was growing up I was very scared to be myself. I felt like I had to fit in. I was embarrassed of who I really was, if I'm honest. Maybe you relate, maybe you don't."
"Sometimes you feel like your life is just flashing before your eyes, like you can't even reach out and grab it. I find it very hard to be present, to be in the moment. I felt like everything I was doing I was just a spectator, like I wasn't there."
"We started touring again recently, and no lie, something in the room, like tonight, lifted me out of myself - made me feel present. I'm alive! So, thank you. Truly you saved me."
Thinking about his conversation with one of his best friends, Mike, Carner said that he wished that someone told him to be himself when he was younger.
"When I was sixteen, seventeen, maybe a bit older, all I wanted was someone to say 'Be yourself, because that's the only thing you can be. So be your fucking self! It's the sickest thing. It's the hardest thing."
"I wish someone told me. I spent so long trying to be someone else."
'Loose Ends' was dedicated to Georgia Smith. It wasn't uncommon throughout the show for phones to come out and record a piece of a song here or there, but so many came out that it looked like the pit of the floor was actually the night sky lit.
'Ice water' led to 'Ain't nothing changed,' but not before it saw a reprise of the beloved sports chant that originally followed 'Speed of Plight.'
'Ain't nothing changed' had a little mishap after, a fan chucking their phone from the pit for a BeReal opportunity in response to the star of the evening pausing to take his own photo with the audience.
"No, that could have hit me in the head, bro! That could have killed me. I'm a nice guy!" he joked.
"Do you want your phone back?" saw the quick return of the phone, a toss seeing a lucky catch by outstretched hands. A second fan's thrown phone, however, was promptly left on the side of the band's stage, to be returned later as the opening chords 'Nobody Knows (Ladas Road)' played.
'HGU' was set to be the last song of the night, not including the encore.
"Can I tell you a story before I play this next one?" he carefully asked. "When I used to play shows, I don't know if you've ever seen me before, I used to talk way too much. I try my best not to talk too much, but just enough. But this story is important."
"I found out I was going to be a father when I was 25 - I see you trying to figure my age, relax," Carner laughed. "I'm older than 25, alright?"
"One of the first things I did was I called my father, who I never really spent time with. My stepfather, who you might have heard in my older music - he passed away. I loved him dearly. Meanwhile my biological father we were never that close."
"I called him and was like, 'Yo, I'm going to be a father.' And hit me back. I called him on the phone and he was like, 'Wow, yeah, I can't believe it.' And two seconds later he hung up," Carner huffed.
"And I was like, 'motherfucker.'"
"A couple weeks later, he called me back, and he was like, 'I'm sorry, I didn't know what to say. I had no words. I didn't have the words to speak to you so I hung up.' And that's kind of a bullshit thing, but that's the kind of thing that all fathers do. Most parents, but fathers in particular don't have the words. Especially from my dad's generation."
"He said, 'Look, I apologise.' And I was like, okay, I forgive you - for that." Carner emphasised. "I'm not forgiving you for everything yet, but I forgive you for that."
"And he said he wanted to teach me how to drive. So I said, 'Yeah, bet, okay, cool. You can teach me to drive.' So he pulled up to my house in his little red VW-Polo," he described, outlining the shape of the car with his hands. "From that year. Tiny thing. And I got in it. He taught me to drive, slowly, over the whole lock down."
"At the beginning I hated him. In the car I was deep red inside. I was angry," he admitted, reflecting on the difficult situation he had been placed in. "I was asking him why he let me down. Why disappear? Where was he? Over the course of these driving lessons, he was able to tell me his side of the story. I guess help me understand that, ultimately, my father had none of the tools."
"He grew up fifty years ago as a black man in South London. He grew up in a kids home with nothing, no parents. He had none of the tools to be the father to me that he needed to be. My mom raised me with the tools I had to be a father so I was able to be a father to my father. Get me? I was able to love my father."
Almost haunted and voice cracking, Carner added, "It took a lot of time. It took a long time."
"Ultimately, I forgave him. I forgave my father. And at first, I was angry because I don't want to forgive him. In my head I was like, and maybe you've felt like this too, if I forgive you, I'm setting you free."
Clutching the mic, he looked back in time and remembered a prevailing sentiment. "I don't want to set you free."
"But I realise, yes, okay, I set my father free - I release him. But more than that, I set myself free," Carner said, sharing his epiphany. "I release myself from these chains I was holding myself. I'm weightless. I'm happy. Genuinely happy. I mean it. Happiness doesn't mean happiness everyday but I'm happy for real."
"The only reason I tell you this is, my father's car, the license plate was S331-HGU. And everyone called my dad's car 'Hugo,' so that's why I called my album Hugo."
Gratiously, Loyle Carner left the audience with a thank you for coming out to see him and a celebratory aside about his decade long music career. While it was disappointing the show finished so soon, the encore of 'Ottolengthi' was an extraordinary finish to the set.
Check out Loyle Carner's album Hugo here:
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