Loyle Carner Tears Down KOKO In One Of 2016’s Best Shows
Here's why you should give Loyle Carner - one of the UK's most exciting hip-hop artists - a chance.
"Can I tell you why this is [called] the Cantona tour? My Dad was an excellent musician - a much better one than me. And when I was young, he used to say that we'd tour the world - UK, Europe, everywhere - and I could be his little support act.
"But sadly, my dad passed away, and that never happened. So I carry around his Cantona shirt with me so that we can tour together…
“…even though I'm a Liverpool fan and he's a Man U fan - it's f**king ridiculous that I have to carry this piece of s**t around! You never walk alone! But, anyway, if I say “OOO AH” - will you say Cantona?"
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get to go to a gig that's a cut above every other show you’ve been to that year. Loyle Carner’s homecoming show at London’s KOKO last night was that gig.
But before we get into why last night (October 5) was so special, here’s a quick recap for those of you who are new to Loyle Carner.
Known for his intimate, emotive hip-hop, “Everybody says I’m f**kin’ sad/ Of course I’m f**kin’ sad, I miss my f**kin’ dad,” Carner’s laid-back beats and crackling vocals have seen him quickly build a nationwide following in just two short years.
He released the EP A Little Late in 2014, just seven months after his stepfather died. (Carner refers to his biological father as a “deadbeat dad”, but has a real love for his stepfather.) He’s got a new single (following the storming ‘NO CD’, released in August) coming out next month. Oh, and he’s finished his new album too. Everything's coming up Loyle Carner.
Not too long ago, the ‘Florence’ rapper was playing in front of a couple of hundred people in Birthdays, a small, cool venue in Dalston, London.
Now, despite not having that debut out yet, Loyle Carner – real name Benjamin Coyle-Larner – has sold out the 1500+ capacity KOKO, "Everyone I love is in this room! You've sold this place out. Thank you. This next song is about a girl that broke my heart, so fingers crossed she's not here. Yeah, boo! Nah, she's alright.”
With MC/producer Rebel Kleff (his best friend and the man behind all the beats) on the decks, Loyle’s songs are beefed up for his live show. The drums are punchier. The beats sound sultrier. Everything is faster. Loyle is happy to freestyle and he doesn’t stand still at any point during the 70 minute set. It’s fun.
Loyle opened up with ‘BFG’, a eulogy to his late stepfather. Once he’d finished that first tune, the cheers were deafening. A chant of “Loyle Loyle Loyle” rang out. Almost moved to tears, Carner looked like he could scarcely believe this was happening to him.
Then the familiar guitar strokes from ‘Stars & Shards’ burst forward, and everyone promptly lost their minds.
Loyle was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD as a child. Back then, a young Loyle Carner, with his kinetic energy making him “impulsive, hot-headed and very distracted”, said he found solace in cooking. It chilled him out. It made him feel happy.
So this summer, Carner launched a cooking school to help other children with ADHD feel the same. He brought them to the gig: "Don’t know if you all saw but I set up a cooking school for kids with ADHD. They're all here tonight - make some noise for them! I hope none of them are drunk…"
The walls are sweaty in KOKO. The noise inside is almost painful. It feels good. Everyone can sense it: this is special.
But then a group of hands from the centre of the crowd start waving frantically. Loyle stops the set. "What’s wrong?" he shouts. Someone has had a seizure.
“Oh f**k!” Loyle leaps down and starts yelling orders, trying to create space for the afflicted person. Even though this is the gig of his life, Loyle offers to go out of the venue to make sure the person is okay. It’s not completely clear what’s happening, but security takes the man away.
"You know why that's horrible for me? My dad had a seizure and he passed away," Loyle says. To try and calm everyone down, Carner tries to recite a poem, but is unable to get past the first few lines. He’s visibly unsettled, as is everyone in the venue.
A few minutes later, someone runs onto stage and whispers into Loyle’s ear.
“He’s alright guys!” Loyle shouts. “Bring that guy backstage after!”
Carner then launched into ‘Tierney Terrace’, one of his best songs, and KOKO goes nuts. “I'm so f**king glad that the guy who had a seizure is alright,” Loyle says, sweat dripping down his face.
Loyle Carner’s KOKO show was a cathartic experience. 2016 has been a particularly miserable year, and it’s gigs like this that help you feel better, that help you release. Which is what gigs should be - a place where you can lose your inhibitions and have fun.
Carner clearly has a real love of words, and his sweetness and his honesty sets him apart from other hip-hop artists. He’s a heartfelt, intimate performer. He makes you feel like you’re a part of something. But that’s not to say that he’s not fun – because he really, really is. Plus, as his in-between song chat reveals, he’s funny, cool and personable too.
Loyle Carner is a rare talent. Go see him when you get the chance. He's touring until November 5 - more info here. Buy his album when it comes out. Stay tuned for that new single. Follow him on Twitter. Support great artists.
Enough from me. Here’s what everyone else thought: