Having released his album Yesterday’s Gone earlier in January this year, there has recently been a sudden surge of hype surrounding Loyle Carner, prompting a large number of my friends to go see him live. My friends assured me that I was in for a special treat and having only heard positive and enthusiastic things about Carner’s live performances, I approached Motion, Bristol with eager excitement to finally see and experience the man that I had heard so much about for myself.
I walked into a large, dark, warehouse-like room, to find myself amused by the stage that was a stark contrast to that of the venue. The stage was designed as a quaint, cosy living room with an armchair, a tall lamp, a mixing desk shelved with records, CDs and books, with a projector screen at the back of the stage with the Yesterday’s Gone album cover. The stage design was a touch of genius, fitting perfectly to Carner’s music and the type of artist that he is – genuine, honest and intimate – the stage serving as an external expression of the intimacy present in his music whilst also creating an intimacy with the audience, inviting us into his world, showing us where his journey began. The stage design was clearly very well thought-out, matching perfectly with his tracks such as No CD, where the records on stage were a reference to his lyrics, “We got some Old Jay Zs, couple ODBs. Place ‘em up in perfect order ‘cos of my OCD’”, and where he sat in the armchair when rapping about his grandfather. The projector screen came to life at the end of the show during the song, Sun of Jean, the moment his mother starts reciting a poem about him. Watching the visuals of his mother was incredibly moving and another reminder of how real and genuine Carner and his music is.
Carner’s entire performance was powerful, energetic and captivating. The energy throughout the night was electric and consistent, from his powerful opening gospel track, The Isle of Arran to his very last song. Definite crowd pleasers were Ain’t Nothing Changed, Stards and Shards, No CD, Damesfly and Tierney Terrace, where the crowd went wild after just hearing seconds of the prominent simple melody riffs of all these racks. This is only testament to the brilliance of the instrumentals and production of the tracks – how a sampled, simple melody riff can drive an entire song. But what was most impressive was Carner’s incredible stage presence. It truly is rare that you come across an artist that has the ability to move and captivate you with just his voice, a microphone and a simple instrumental riff as a track. His energy was infectious, and there were times where it was purely his voice that commanded the stage. It was evident, (excuse the cliché phrase, but it seems only fitting), that he belongs on stage – he is a true performer, where his entire performance was so dynamic, yet effortless and polished.
But above all, Carner’s performance was endearing. What was most touching was where Carner frequently introduced his songs explaining the stories behind his tracks. Where his songs are inherently raw and honest already, the little interludes were another insight to him not only as an artist, but also as a person. Learning about the inspiration behind his tracks, such as Florence – where his mother had always wanted a daughter, so wrote a song for her imagining a life with a sister and what sort of brother he would be – after knowing this and listening to the lyrics: “Remember that I promised her some pancakes/So I stagger to the stove and start to stand braze/ See I make ‘em like my Nan makes”, you couldn’t help but swoon and feel your heartstrings being tugged slightly. Learning about the inspiration behind the album name, Yesterday’s Gone – a song that was recorded of his stepfather before his death, and learning of its strategic placement amongst the set list at the very end instead of No CD; watching Carner walk off stage with the song fading out was truly a cinematic moment and a beautiful ending to the beautiful story that he shared with us that evening.
All and all, Carner is an artist that is incredibly inclusive, including everything and everyone around him. Where he clings onto his late father’s Eric Cantona’s shirt, his cutting and intimate lyrics about himself and his family, performing with his childhood friend, remodelling the stage as his living room, all these factors combined are what make him unique and a genuine ‘bona fide’ artist. Watching Carner was truly inspiring and I left Bristol incredibly moved, having just watched one of the best performances I have ever seen.