Loyle Carner @ Concorde 2 – Thursday 6 October 2016

Loyle Carner performing live at Concorde 2, Brighton East Sussex, 6 October 2016

Playing a sold out show at Concorde 2 on your 21st birthday might intimidate lesser mortals, but hotly tipped south London rapper, Benjamin Coyle-Larner doesn’t seem remotely phased, while fully appreciating the significance of the occasion, having played at the venue before to lesser crowds.

Over the past year, Carner has released a stream of insightful and erudite tracks to critical acclaim, including his debut EP ‘A Little Late’ and single ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’, which was added to the BBC Radio 1 ‘In New Music We Trust’ playlist. Carner also made the esteemed BBC Music Sound of 2016 long list, as well as collaborating on tracks with his friend and talented musician/producer Tom Misch, and with fellow MC Kate Tempest.

Local hip hop duo Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn are the perfect support act with their melodic beats and laidback lyrics about everyday life in Portslade. They appear to have brought along half the under 20s population of the local area and receive an incredible level of support from their loyal following. Already on their second album ‘The Flowers In Your Room’, after debut ‘This Morning’, their popularity is set to expand beyond the shores of the South East.

With an oversized football t-shirt as a backdrop, Carner comes out clutching his stepdad’s Eric Cantona shirt, later explaining that before he sadly passed away, they had plans to tour together, so it’s his way of ensuring his stepdad is always with him on stage. His bars are strewn with references to the father figures in his life, as well as a deep and loving respect for his mum and other family members.

It’s this ability to paint vivid portraits of family life with such painful honesty that makes his music resonate with people, especially a younger audience. Launching into ‘BFG’, a heartrending tribute to his late stepfather, his easy flow imbibed with raw emotion as he spits the line “Everybody says I’m fuckin’ sad / of course I’m fuckin’ sad / I miss my fuckin’ dad”. It strikes a chord with everyone in the room.

Bouncing from one side of the stage to the other, the youthful energy of ‘Stars And Shards’ has his young admirers rapping along to the lyrics with arms in the air. This concept track centres around a lost soul, who goes chasing the end of the proverbial rainbow but finds hollow happiness when he gets there. His DJ Rebel Cleff then comes out from behind the decks to join him on ‘The Money’ and it’s obvious the two have a special bond, Cleff announcing at the end of the track that today is Carner’s birthday, to rapturous applause.

Despite apologising for telling too many stories, he tells us the story of how his mum (who is present) always wanted a daughter, but ended up with two sons instead, so he wrote the track ‘Florence’ to give her the next best thing. With the crowd singing along to the chorus by underrated singer/songwriter Kwes; “I see you perching on the corner of the weeping window pane / You’re growing up fast just like the flora / The world is yours, come shine or rain”, Carner then reveals his mum’s plans to adopt a baby girl. Life imitating art.

In between tracks, he also tells us a guy had a seizure at his gig in London the previous night and implores the young audience to take care of themselves and stop squashing those at the front against the barrier. This plea unfortunately comes too late, as earlier a girl had collapsed in the heaving throngs and was escorted outside by security. Lay off the drugs on a school night kids.

There’s a short interlude while Carner asks if he can do a poem – or “a capella” as he used to call it at gigs in order to “sound cool” – called ‘Isle of Arran’, before playing ‘Tierney Terrace’ “for anybody who’s got a deadbeat dad,” another poke at his absent biological father and the place where he spent quality time with his grandparents. Alluding to a fight he had with someone over his family-orientated content, Carner and Cleff then burst into a jubilant rendition of ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’, culminating in the audience singing happy birthday to a clearly overwhelmed Carner; the cameraman and his friends storm the stage, spraying him with silly string and chuck party poppers and balloons into the crowd. This is definitely a birthday he won’t forget.

Putting his stepdad’s t-shirt on over his wiry frame, which he describes as looking like “a big twiglet with a head” for the poignant ‘Cantona’ – his stepdad’s hero – it’s obvious why this confessional vulnerability has the audience hanging on every word, each one delivered with clarity and intensity. He finishes up with latest release ‘NO CD’, a more upbeat track, which demonstrates he can do light, as well as dark.

The whole room is jumping in a celebratory mood as he cheekily tweaks the lyrics from “Oh Please, we ain’t got no p’s / Because we spent all our money on some old CDs” to “spend all your money on my new CD”, referring to his completed album. Due out early next year, it will feature a great new track with Tom Misch that he previewed earlier for us. And rather abruptly it’s all over. No encore. But you can’t blame him on his birthday.

Loyle Carner is a rare talent who isn’t afraid to let his guts spill out all over the floor. His striking candour and eloquence translates effortlessly to his adoring fans. Together with J Dilla-inspired production and a smooth, skillful flow, he is such a genuine, likeable character, you can only wish him the best. He has a bright future ahead of him and his late stepfather would surely be proud.

Loyle Carner performing live at Concorde 2, Brighton East Sussex, 6 October 2016

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Boundary Brighton @ Stanmer Park -17 September 2016

boundary-festival-brighton-source-mike-tudor-studio85-uk-16-1For a debut festival, Boundary Brighton ran incredibly smoothly, which is testament to the organisers, although ticket sales were down, resulting in a flash sale of heavily discounted tickets at the last minute. With a distinctly Brighton-centric feel to it, four stages hosted by the city’s leading music institutions – Patterns, Concorde 2 and The Arch – were set for international DJs and live acts, including Craig David’s TS5, Groove Armada, Seth Troxler and Congo Natty. Nestled between the crest of the South Downs and the city, Stanmer Park was the perfect setting for a festival. The recent cohort of freshers making up the majority of the crowd from neighbouring Sussex and Brighton universities, were in high spirits, but didn’t get out of hand.

Arriving around 1pm, there wasn’t a huge number of people, but early arrivals could enjoy wandering around the relatively small site, browsing the stall selling hats and hoodies, buying tokens for the bar, which had a rather limited selection of drinks on offer, checking out the similarly limited choice of food stalls and contemplating taking a ride on the big wheel or swings. With glimpses of sun breaking through the clouds, Submotion Orchestra played a rather subdued set on the main stage, but their distinctive blend of electronica, bass, ambient, jazz and dub, coupled with the great voice of singer Ruby Wood, got a few people on their feet to tracks like In Gold and It’s Not Me It’s You.

Jungle were up next with a slightly boring DJ set. To watch two guys twiddling knobs in the middle of the main stage wasn’t all that exciting and the volume wasn’t nearly loud enough. Having seen the full Jungle band play live at Bestival, it made one crave a more visual experience. Equally, Groove Armada’s DJ set was underwhelming and beset by a quiet sound system. Even their big hits like I See You Baby and Superstylin’ fell on deaf ears. While the volume issues continued, reggae/ska/dub nine-piece Gentleman’s Dub Club switched the energy levels up several gears, with vocalist Jonathan Scratchley bouncing across the stage to feel-good tracks like Music Is The Girl I Love and High Grade. There also seemed to be several musicians from Submotion Orchestra moonlighting in the band.

Over at the Elrow stage, brightly decorated with neon flowers, stars and CND signs hanging from the marquee, Seth Troxler and Richy Ahmed brought the sounds of Barcelona and Ibiza, mixed with the visual spectacle of confetti filled air, inflatable rubber rings and crowd surfing chickens. Meanwhile, inside the London Warehouse Events tent, with an exterior façade made to look like a club with concrete walls, hard core festivalgoers enjoyed DJ sets from underground house and techno DJs, such as Tom Trago and Joy Orbison. It was also a good place to warm up when the sun went down.

The Bandstand stage perched on a hilltop overlooking the site, drew a large, enthusiastic crowd firstly for Krafty Kutz and A.Skillz with their finely honed back and forth mixing with a collection of bangers and breaks. Then for Jaguar Skills, playing his mash-ups of genres from hip hop to drum ‘n’ bass, complete with his trademark balaclava. The smell of hotdogs wafting over from The Dog Haus was slightly distracting, so might be worth rethinking the location of the food stalls next year. As night fell Toddla T took the stage and kept the crowd going, even to the extent that a couple broke through the barrier and on to the stage. They were quickly removed and the MC got things back on track.

Without a doubt the biggest crowd of the day gathered for the headliner Craig David’s TS5. For those who remember his first appearance on the music scene back in 1999 with the two-step garage classic Re-Rewind (The Crowd Say Bo Selecta) with Artful Dodger, Craig David is synonymous with early noughties garage and r’n’b.  After almost a decade in the musical wilderness following his public ridiculing by comedian Leigh Francis, which ‘destroyed’ his career and made him escape to Miami, David is enjoying the biggest comeback since Justin Trousersnake. With a legion of new fans from the next generation, he is back in the charts and has won the hearts of the British public once again.

Accompanied only by decks and a mic on stage, Craig started with the intro from R. Kelly’s Bump ‘n’ Grind before mixing in Re-Rewind and uttering the immortal line “With Craig David all over your…”; his silky smooth voice as flawless as it sounds on record. And with that, he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. What followed was a one-man masterclass in mixing, singing and MCing. Playing a mixture of his old and new material, classics like 7 Days, Fill Me In and Walking Away went down a storm, while his latest hit When The Bassline Drops was just as well-received. Playing a selection of nineties/noughties hits, such as the 2000 garage anthem Flowers by Sweet Female Attitude and 1993 dancefloor favourite Show Me Love by Robin S., he also put his own spin on current tracks like Drake’s One Dance. The love from the crowd was palpable and you could see he was genuinely revelling in the moment. Craig David, it’s great to have you back.

Perhaps a line-up with more live acts and less DJ sets, which were more or less in the same vein of dance music, would have added more variety to the festival and made the visual experience especially, more satisfying. There’s always next year.

Craig David

Craig David Performing at Boundary Festival, Brighton, England. 17th September 2016.

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Julian Marley @ Concorde 2 – 16 August 2016

ShowImageSon of Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley, Julian ‘Ju Ju’ Marley is a Grammy award nominated, roots reggae musician, singer-songwriter, producer and Rastafarian. On a rare UK tour, any reggae fan worth their puff would be a rasclat to miss it. The first of his six destinations, reggae lovers in and around Brighton flocked to Concorde 2 on a balmy Tuesday evening to witness a touch of Marley magic.

Support act Iba MaHr ‘The Black Youth of Harar’, a young sensation for authentic Jamaican reggae in the lovers rock genre, got things off to an energetic start, skanking and gyrating around the stage, while showing off his lovely, quivering vocals, a little reminiscent of veteran reggae singer Horace Andy. With lyrics clearly inspired by Rastafarianism, roots and culture, MaHr is flying the flag for old skool reggae to inspire a new generation.

With the addition of two female backing singers, the excellent seven-piece Uprising band remained on stage for Julian’s set. After being introduced by the effective hype man, Marley, looking and sounding so similar to his famous father, with his thigh-length dreadlocks swaying around his lanky figure, played tracks from his first album ‘Lion in the Morning’ (1996), ‘A Time & Place’ (2003) and 2009 album ‘Awake’.

Performing fan favourites like ‘Systems’, with the kind of social commentary on Babylon of Bob’s songs;’Violence in the Streets’, the collaboration with his arguably better known brother Damian and ‘Lemme Go’, by the time he got to the irresistibly catchy ‘Boom Draw’, the cheerfully stoned crowd were singing along to the patois chorus “Catch up all a fire / Fi go burn di sinting sinting weh strong”.

‘Build Together’, ‘Harder Dayz’ and ‘Sharp As A Razor’ showcased the musicians and backing singers complementing Julian’s husky vocals superbly. He also debuted new song ‘Warzone’, a slow, touching number and a few covers of Bob Marley’s classics, including ‘Exodus’, which Iba MaHr joined him on stage for, and ‘Africa Unite’, both of which possibly gained the most enthusiastic reception.

Coming from reggae royalty, one has to wonder how much Julian’s fame is a result of the Marley name and legacy. Undoubtedly, this has put him and his brothers Damian, Stephen and Ziggy, in a privileged position within the music industry, but there’s no denying the guy is a talented musician, singer and songwriter in his own right and his late father would be proud of him.

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Wild Beasts @ The Old Market – 28 July 2016

Wild-Beasts-The-Old-Market-Brighton-Source-Mike-Tudor-Studio85uk-1-702x468“Shocked, delighted and disgusted” is how frontman Hayden Thorpe described reactions so far to their ‘Boy King’ tour. With their fifth album to date, released in the UK on 5th August, Wild Beasts change course yet again, with an angrier, more 80s sound with lots of synthesisers. A concept album dealing with the self-destructive effects of modern-day masculinity, it was recorded with producer John Congleton, who has previously worked with St. Vincent and Swans. This departure from the emotive, heartfelt ballads found on previous album ‘Present Tense’, may explain the wide ranging reception from fans. As bassist Tom Fleming put it, “The last record was made up of love songs. This one is all f**k songs.”

In a stuffy theatre at The Old Market, the stage set up with three long lighting panels either side of the stage and the creepy dark face with red eyes and lips from the album cover as a backdrop, the four band members walked on, each with a guitar and synthesiser, except the drummer. Kicking off with new single ‘Get My Bang’ with its heavy bassline and exploration of sexual alter egos, Thorpe’s note perfect voice took on a gruffer tone. Swigging red wine between songs, Thorpe then launched into another new track ‘Big Cat’, the words flashing intermittently on the lighting panels, while repeating the lyrics “Big cat, top of the food chain” in his inimitable falsetto.

The new tracks were received with mild enthusiasm by the mixed age crowd; somewhat inevitable given people may not yet be familiar with the material. However, ‘A Simple Beautiful Truth’ and ‘Daughters’ from ‘Present Tense’ definitely got a warmer reception and gave Fleming a chance to show off his lovely baritone vocals. Drenched in sweat, Thorpe told the audience he was going to play some older stuff from a time when he didn’t “sweat profusely on stage” and by the time they got to ‘Hooting And Howling’ from 2009 album ‘Two Dancers’, several members of the audience were moshing wildly in front of the stage and nearly everyone was singing along.

Mellowing the atmosphere with a beautiful rendering of ‘Mecca’, they then finished with new, gender busting song ‘Alpha Female’ with Thorpe proclaiming “alpha female, I’m right behind you” – the Beasts at their playfully clever, songwriting best. Returning for an encore with the hauntingly fragile ‘Wanderlust’, where Thorpe cautions “Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck,” the band closed with the otherworldly ‘Celestial Creatures’ from ‘Boy King’, expounding the mantra “These are messy times that we’re living in / Down here on Earth all is forgiven”; particularly poignant given the current political climate.

The overall performance was fairly faultless, but somehow didn’t connect as much as one might have hoped. While ‘Boy King’ may not be to everyone’s taste, diehard fans will appreciate Wild Beasts are evolving their sound and experimenting with new ideas. Only time will tell if the album is a critical success or not.

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Wild Life Festival @ Shoreham Airport – 11-12 June 2016

Last weekend Wild Life Festival returned to Shoreham Airport for its second year. With a sell-out Saturday and reaching very close to capacity on Sunday, revellers enjoyed performances by a diverse array of artists from Grammy-nominated rapper Busta Rhymes to Brit award-winning singer James Bay, with a healthy dose of hip hop, grime and dance artists thrown in for good measure.

Having threatened to rain all week, miraculously even the weather held up with only a slight drizzle on Sunday. Legendary N.W.A. member Ice Cube performed with his son Doughboy against a backdrop created by Lancing College and an army of workers ensured the runways were clear again by Monday morning.

Boasting an impressive line-up, curated by headliners Disclosure and Rudimental, the bill featured a credible selection of grime and hip hop talent including De La Soul, Stormzy and Skepta, reggae/dancehall champion David Rodigan, drum ‘n’ bass king Andy C, UK garage selector DJ EZ, R&B flavours from Brighton’s own Rag‘n’Bone Man, plus a smattering of indie pop from the likes of Bastille.

Saturday saw De La Soul perform in the Big Top tent, playing hip hop classics such as ‘Me, Myself And I’, but bizarrely not ‘The Magic Number’, possibly their most well-known song. Bringing a mix of classic and contemporary reggae vibes to the main stage, David Rodigan showed no sign of slowing down at the ripe old age of 64.

Hip hop giant of the naughties Busta Rhymes, busted out time-honoured tunes, such as ‘Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check’ and got the crowd fist pumping to ‘Gimme Some More’. Annie Mac went on a massive ego trip with huge visuals of her own head before the day’s top billing Disclosure put on an underwhelming set, relying heavily on impressive lighting and production. For the hardcore partiers, Wilkinson and Andy C rinsed out some heavy drum ‘n ‘bass in the Supercharged tent, despite encountering technical problems.

Sunday festivities included acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, Jack Garratt with his one man show and pint-sized rocker James Bay, belting out crowd-pleaser ‘Hold Back the River’. Inside the Big Top, Jamie Woon performed a flawless set, including ‘Lady Luck’ from his first album ‘Mirrorwriting’ and ‘Celebration’ from his new album ‘Making Time’. With the tight band clearly enjoying themselves, fantastic male backing singers/dancers and an appreciative audience, this was a highlight of the weekend.

Back on the main stage, Ice Cube whipped the crowd into a frenzy with hip hop bangers ‘You Can Do It’, ‘Straight Outta Compton’ and ‘It Was A Good Day’. Headliners Rudimental absolutely smashed it with a high-energy, visually exciting show. Joined by vocalists Will Heard and Anne-Marie Nicholson, they belted out ‘Never Let You Go’ and ‘I Will for Love’ before things took an edgier turn, sampling Damian Marleys’ ‘Welcome To Jamrock’ and Shy FX’s ‘Original Nuttah’. Closing with a euphoric ‘Waiting All Night’, it’s fair to say these guys really come into their own at a festival.

The festival’s event manager, Steve Walton said, “This year’s Wild Life Festival was a fantastic success for all involved. The feedback from both artists and the public has been amazing and the buzz around Shoreham by Sea all weekend was great to see. It was always going to be hard to top 2015 but we did it!”

Whether it topped last year’s festival is debatable. While issues from the 2015 event, such as bus queues, appeared to have largely been addressed, there were still long queues at the entrance gates and security was a bit of a joke. The festival policy stated “persons aged under 16 must be accompanied by an adult over the age of 18″. However, security didn’t seem to be checking ID and were letting unaccompanied children in, who were clearly younger than 16. There were too many kids in a bad way, some even being stretchered out by paramedics, which isn’t what anyone wants to witness at a festival. Also, charging £7 for a programme, which should be freely available to anyone who bought a ticket, and £6.50 for a vodka and coke, is taking the biscuit. Gripes aside, it was a brilliant weekend.

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Normanton Street @ Patterns – 15 April 2016

12909637_10156656568175214_4768224252742723807_oFresh from their crowdfunded SxSW Festival slot, local band Normanton Street launched their latest EP Life’s Real downstairs at Patterns, supported by three other Brighton-based outfits: Lebeaux, One Eyed Jacks, and Frankie Stew & Harvey Gunn.

This four-piece hip-hop/soul group has garnered a loyal following, reflected by the sizeable crowd they attracted and band members Ned, Nicholson, Phoebe and Nico showed their appreciation by putting on an energetic, jovial performance. Ned on bass guitar was particularly animated, almost headbanging, along with some fancy footwork and very entertaining to watch.

Lead singer, Phoebe Freya effortlessly filled the room with her soulful, bluesy tones, contrasting with Nicholson’s northern twang, spitting personal and often humorous stories, over bassy, laidback beats, while Ned’s smooth spoken words enveloped the audience like a cozy blanket. Playing a selection of tracks from their back catalogue, highlights included New Dawn, Take a Walk With Me and This Way, obviously well known by the faithful crowd, many of whom were singing along to the lyrics. New tracks Take Time and Angeline went down well and show the band are honing their unique sound.

These guys clearly love the stage and chatting after the show, Nicholson said they had a short break from gigging in the autumn and were all suffering withdrawal symptoms, because ‘it’s like an addiction’. With their enthusiasm, passion and talent, life is indeed real for Normanton Street.

Moderat @ Brighton Dome – 7th April 2016

12963595_10154815253923146_5776227692700996986_nFormed in Berlin by electronic music producers Apparat and Modeselektor, the supergroup Moderat has just released their third collaboration, aptly titled III. Following the trajectory of the equally suitably named Moderat and II, their latest album refines the unique combination of Modeselektor’s deep techno and Apparat’s pared back, emotive electro.

A week into their world tour, they were originally due to play at the Corn Exchange and upgraded to the larger capacity Concert Hall, due to high demand. This was a good move, as the standing area was packed out, as well as most of the balcony seating, with excited punters, buzzing with expectation. The sign on the screen warned ‘This is a dark show’ and requested no flash photography.

After a warm up set by Shed, Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary of Modeselektor positioned themselves behind their synthesisers either side of the stage, looking like a couple of bouncers, and the first bassy note filled the room. The lanky, angular presence that is Sascha Ring aka Apparat, then filled the gap in the middle, his pitch-perfect voice coming in for the first track from the new album, Eating Hooks, a slow-burning intro that hinted at deeper, dirtier things to come. The visuals of disembodied arms in symbolic positions, created a slightly sinister atmosphere.

As the tempo gradually increased, an extended version of Running whipped the crowd into a frenzy of flailing arms and nodding heads, as the geometric shapes and Moderat graphics on screen, paired with carefully considered lasers and strobe lights, enhanced the sensory experience. Ring’s vocals on Reminder, reminiscent of Thom Yorke, sent shivers down the spine, while the distorted background baritone, demanding ‘burning bridges light my way’, echoed the elephant trumpeting sound sampled on everyone’s favourite Moderat track Bad Kingdom.

Tracks such as Finder and The Fool, with its shaky keyboard melody vibrating throughout the hall, took things down a notch, before Rusty Nails ramped up the pace again. A glance up to stage right confirmed the audience with seats were on their feet and going just as wild as those below.

These electronic music pioneers know how to work a crowd and came back to perform Bad Kingdom for the encore, giving the people exactly what they wanted. To say this went down an absolute storm would be an understatement. Just when everyone was turning to leave, they came back for a surprise second encore, to mellow us all out with the primal call in Intruder, Apparat planting a seed with the lyrics ‘when I sleep at night’.

With ears left ringing, we wouldn’t be surprised if many of those present had vivid dreams after witnessing this audiovisual display of knob-twiddling genius.

Danke schoen Moderat.

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