If there’s one element of any gig with the power to make or break it, it’s the crowd. At
South Londoner Loyle Carner’s show at Leeds’ Belgrave Music Hall, they do the former to a
stupendous extent. That’s not to discredit Carner’s skill in performing; at the tender age of
twenty-one he has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand, singing along to songs
from his just-released LP ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ as well as songs put out on SoundCloud years
earlier. The venue itself works to Carner’s advantage. The intimate Belgrave Music Hall,
although the smallest on his UK tour, allows a certan sense of security, especially when the
young musician delves into stories about his own life. A Liverpool supporter himself, he
carries on his shoulder a Manchester United shirt belonging to his musician stepfather who
died suddenly as he was growing up. This is Carner’s opportunity to share his stage. The
Guardian describe his style as ‘confessional hip-hop’, and in the compact venue, this seems
even more accurate.
The set bursts alive with album opening track ‘The Isle of Arran’, and the choir cuts through
the crowd and sends everyone into a frenzy of chanting for Carner. He storms through the
song, with an energy that could only be fostered by someone totally taken aback by the
experience. Visibly bewildered, he insists that whilst Belgrave may be the smallest venue,
it’s certainly the loudest. I wouldn’t contest that; the mass of teen bodies desperate to be a
part of the gig creates an atmosphere inimitable by someone unwilling to throw their all
into their performance, no matter the size of the venue. The highlights of the set are
‘Florence’, a poem to the daughter his mother wanted but never had, and ‘NO CD’, with a
bassline that has everyone moving in an instant and singing to the only words they know:
“Oh please, we ain’t got no P’s / Because we spent all our money on some old CD’s”.
Additionally, the off-stage relationship between Carner and best friend-cum-music partner
Rebel Kleff reflects on-stage, creating a sense of sanctuary and warmth. They bounce off of
one another, and the energy never drops.
Other highlights come in the more tender moments of the show. ‘BFG’, a track from an early
EP, talks about the loss of his stepfather. Carner wears his heart on his sleeve as he repeats
the lines “Of course I’m fuckin’ sad, I miss my fuckin’ dad.” Despite these lines, he insists to
the crowd that he’s “actually quite happy.” The set closer puts Carner’s personal life out on
the line the most. The stage backdrop of Yesterday’s Gone’s cover picturing his family starts
to change, and ends with a video of his mother reciting the poem from the end of ‘Sun of
Jean’ with perfect ease. It inflicts an image of a young Carner, as energetic as he is now on
the tiny stage at the Belgrave Music Hall, upon the crowd. It’s truly a feat of circumstance,
taking darkness from his life and turning it into beauty.
As the crowd leaves the album’s title track ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ plays. Outside of hearing it on
the album it sounds out of place; however, Carner tells us that it was written and performed
by his father before his death. We exit clutching our loved ones, singing along.
All in all, the set was a perfectly constructed celebration of Carner’s work to date. It
combined crowd pleasers with personal songs, and allowed Carner to put himself on the line
in front of a receptive audience. He moves with ease and encourages the crowd to do the
same. Loyle Carner is a joy to watch, and a performer who will certainly continue to