Take these words and go forwards: Loyle Carner in Southampton!


Photography by @KyePrestonnPhotos

There are few artists out there delivering music to the standard of Loyle Carner right now. His soulful blend of jazz and hip-hop makes him one of the freshest, most exciting artists on the live circuit. To put it simply, few can do it quite as well. His Summer tour for 2024, two years on from the release of the acclaimed album Hugo, brings him to Southampton as part of the inaugural Summer sessions. 

A sea of Hugo merchandise awaits Carner as his band takes the stage and begins to play. He joins them on stage minutes later and launches straight into that record’s opening track, ‘Hate’. It seems a perfect choice- its ferocious, hard-hitting instrumentation is captivating. Before even opening his mouth, the crowd are up in arms. With a record as introspective as Hugo is, it might be hard to imagine that the crowd were able to take the songs and make them their own. The record centred around the artist’s relationship with his biological father, is drenched in personal anecdotes. Reflections on the impact of race, family politics and masculinity seep through every aspect of the album, which, when translated onto the stage, seem to ironically pack more of an emotive punch. The crowd sing back every word emphatically- overwhelming Carner slightly. ‘You’re gonna make me cry, man’- commenting on the electricity coming from the audience, he suggests that it might just be the best show he and his band had ever played.

There is no room for filler in this setlist- whether album tracks or standout singles, Carner bulldozed his way through hit after hit, including ‘Yesterday’, ‘Loose Ends’ and ‘Desoleil’. The two latter tracks, both adorning guest vocalists Jorja Smith and Sampha respectively, are filled in for by the crowd. ‘Not sure if any of you guys know, but I’m a dad now’. The crowd cheers, whilst Carner proceeds to tell us his son is watching from backstage. He is 4- and ‘Homerton’- also from Hugo- is then dedicated to him. The lyrics are earnest and honest- which is perhaps the central appeal of his sound. He plays through ‘Angel’ twice- stopping midway to check up on a fan down the front, much to the delight of the crowd, who unsurprisingly know every word, and sing it louder the second time round. Classics such as ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’ feel as fresh as ever, even 7 years on from its release. Perhaps the best moment from the night was the spoken word outro to the aforementioned ‘Loose Ends’- the music stopped, and Carner began to seamlessly rap the introduction to ‘Ice Water’. As he continued to rap, the musicians picked up again, following Carner’s cue for the new song. Magic.

Carner’s music translates extremely well onto the stage. His live band, a staple of his recent shows, is fast and dynamic. The flexibility of having actual musicians playing jazzy hip-hop gave some room for some additional drum fills, especially during the backend of the set when Carner played ‘A Lasting Place’, which replaced the low, soulful tones of the drum kit with a thumping drum and bass-inspired sound. Whilst the band stuck pretty tight to the original recordings, this rendition seems to take the crowd by surprise- a welcome remix to a much-loved album track. ‘I used to mix my own tracks over MadLib beats when I was like 14’, Carner ponders. After a quick shoutout, his ‘life is crazy’ moment ensued as he played his own album track with MadLib production, ‘Georgetown’, which features poet John Agard.

Photography by @KyePrestonnPhotos

Whilst Southampton was the first offering of dates for this year’s summer run, the set seems to have hardly changed from the tour that followed the release of Hugo two years ago. But, what’s the need to fix what is obviously not broken?  The crowd certainly didn’t seem to have tired of any of the songs. Even to the end, every word is sung back to him and in some instances even drowns his mic out. Before leaving the stage, Carner delivered one final sing-along with ‘Ottolenghi’- perhaps his most loved track. His encore, opting to recite a poem instead of the traditional smash hit finisher, was refreshing- an insight into what’s to come next for the artist as he wraps up the Hugo era, promising that new music is almost finished. If that poem turns out to be new lyricism, then it could be his greatest song yet. He has a knack for testing new material on the road in this form- and if it’s anything to go by, Carner will surely keep climbing to top the success of his last three records and prove why he is one of the most exciting names in contemporary music.

Photography by @KyePrestonnPhotos


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words and photos. Find me at Kyeprestonnphotos on Instagram!

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