Concorde 2

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

Also published in the SOURCE

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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.

Also published in the SOURCE

Submotion Orchestra @ Concorde 2 – 12th March 2016

Let me start by saying this was one of the best gigs I’ve been to in a while. Every member of the band is super talented and played a tight, faultless set. They are one of the rare acts that sound better live than recorded. The absence of lead singer and new mother Ruby Wood was no bad thing, as the three guest vocalists were all excellent and added great variety to the performance.

I came to Submotion late, having missed their first two albums Finest Hour and Fragments. It was only when they released Alium in 2014 that I discovered their eclectic sound spanning electronica, bass, ambient, jazz and dub ‘that sits somewhere on an axis between Bonobo and London Grammar.’ Their latest album Colour Theory goes a step further with meticulously crafted production and fresh, young talent on guest vocals, creating a cohesive album with elegance and finesse.

The five-piece band started aptly with Intro from Fragments, filling the Concorde with powerful, yet delicate music. The first guest vocalist Alyusha was then introduced – a vision in a beautifully embroidered kimono and the face of a geisha – to sing Red Dress, the first track from the new album and she certainly did it justice, sharing the purity of Wood’s voice but with a unique tone, she was utterly mesmerising. She seemed a little nervous to start with, but soon got into her groove with Time Will Wait and Blind Spot from Fragments; the enthusiastic crowd singing along, encouraging her to let rip on that feelgood line ‘so bless us all’ before the spine-tingling drum beat kicks in.

Next up was the brilliantly named Billy Boothroyd, a fellow member of Shlomo’s The Vocal Orchestra and guest vocalist on Colour Theory’s More Than This, which he sang with heart and soul. A self-assured singer with a goosebump-inducing voice, he brought the house down with his rendition of the earth shatteringly bassy In Gold. As third guest vocalist Andrew Ashong pointed out, both he and Alyusha ‘have got some serious pipes’.

Mr Ashong was a pleasant surprise guest, having decided to jump on the train from London to Brighton after enjoying the company of SubMo so much the previous night at Electric Brixton. His track Needs on the new album is one of my favourites, so I was delighted to hear it live from the man himself. Another up and coming homegrown talent, Andrew was full of praise for his fellow musicians and had a calm, understated presence.

After the Japanese influenced Kimono, Alyusha returned to the stage for the crowd-pleasing It’s Not Me It’s You, before the guys showcased their musicianship and synth-twiddling prowess with Thousand Yard Stare; their clear enjoyment and immersion in the music both infectious and impressive. All three singers then collaborated on Worries, their voices complementing each other respectfully.

Back for an encore after much applause and foot-stomping, Billy covered Hymn For Him, hitting the high notes effortlessly, before the last song of the night: All Yours from their first album, sung with a big smile by Alyusha and a gorgeous trumpet solo from Bobby Beddoe. As my sister put it, this is ‘make you feel alive music’.

Also published on Earlybird Media

 

Roy Ayers & The Ubiquity Band @ Concorde 2 – 24th July 2015

Roy Ayers

I’ve known the name Roy Ayers for as long as I can remember, but I’m not sure how I discovered him. A lot of people I asked had never heard of him, which was surprising to me, as some of his hits, like Everybody Loves the Sunshine and Running Away are internationally well-known. Perhaps it’s a case of people knowing the songs rather than the artist. Known by many as ‘The Godfather of Neo Soul’, Ayers has been around since the 70s and helped pioneer jazz-funk. He is also famous for having more sampled hits than any other artist and has collaborated with the likes of Fela Kuti, Erykah Badu, A Tribe Called Quest, Tupac, Talib Kweli and most recently, Tyler, The Creator.

I missed his performance at Concorde 2 last year, so was keen to catch him this time around and luckily, my friend had a spare ticket (sorry, still owe you for that one!) It was a last minute dash to get there in the pouring July rain, but the unseasonal weather didn’t seem to have kept people away and there was a positive vibe from the significantly older crowd.

There was just enough time to grab a pint before Roy Ayers was introduced on stage and entered wearing a matching camo t-shirt and jacket, which I was rather taken with! Cool as a cucumber, he began to play his vibraphone, an instrument in the same family as the xylophone, which also shares similarities to the marimba and the glockenspiel. I must confess, I had no idea what this instrument was and was fascinated by the sounds he made with it, at times similar to a piano, at others, almost like a harp. Then his silky smooth vocal blended in seamlessly with the music played by a very tight four-piece band, including an extremely talented keyboardist, who played a number of solos, while Roy looked on in appreciation.

After a string of big hits including SearchinCan’t You See Me, Evolution and a sexy I Wanna Touch You Baby, the tinkly opening notes to Everybody Loves the Sunshine provoked a great cheer from the audience as the stage was bathed in golden yellow light, making everyone forget about the torrential downpour outside and transporting us to a mellow, groovy, sunny place. Then halfway through, Roy said he’d like to introduce a very special guest, ‘who just happened to be in town’ and none other than 90s soul singer Omar walked on stage and took up singing the lyrics, whilst Roy and his backing singer chanted ‘Omar’ over and over again. What an unexpected treat!

It was obvious the band were enjoying themselves and wanted to play on, but unfortunately, they had to finish bang on 10pm to clear the venue for the club night. I for one, was left longing for more, but then, I probably could have listened to them all night and still wanted more. I hope they come back next year.

Dead Prez @ Concorde 2 – 25th Oct 2014

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I must confess, I only ever really listened to their first brilliant and defiant album Let’s Get Free (2000), but Dead Prez have produced a lot more material since then; as a duo, individually and collaboratively. Unaware of quite how vast their joint back catalogue is, I was expecting their setlist to consist mainly of tracks from Let’s Get Free, but actually they only played a few and the rest was a mixture of stuff from their later albums and solo projects.

Support came courtesy of Parallax (who I missed) and Along Came Shifty, an 8-piece Brighton outfit, most notable for their ginger-haired, female vocalist. The headliners began with DJ Mikeflo, adorned with tattoos all over one side of his face, throwing 3 oranges into the excitable Saturday night crowd! Not your average freebie, but representative of the healthy-living ethos expounded by DP, exemplified on the track Be Healthy. After playing a few tracks on the decks to warm us up, M-1 and Stic.man bounded on to the stage, the former in a Dave Chapelle hoodie (I want one!) and both wearing combat trousers, reflecting their militant tendencies.

After several tracks, M-1 gave ‘kudos’ to the soundman, complementing the sound quality, which was noticeably crisper and clearer, exploiting to the full his flawless, fast flow and Stic.man’s slower, softer rap style. I also thought the lighting was better than usual, so ‘kudos’ to the lighting man also and well done Concorde 2 for upgrading! Tracks from the second album RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta (2004), included W-4 and Hell Yeah (Pimp the System). They did two remixes; Luniz I Got 5 On It and Liberation by Outkast, tacked neatly on to the end of $timulus Plan. They also played one of my all-time favourites, Mind Sex, complete with an introduction about how they respect ladies as comrades, soldiers and equals (a refreshing change to the portrayal of women as ‘bitches and ho’s’ in mainstream hip hop) and an outro full of sexual innuendo.

Then came the one we’d all be waiting for, the seminal Hip Hop, which practically blew the roof off from the first Bob Marley inspired bar: “One thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain!” Needless to say, the crowd went mental, arms flailing everywhere, drinks flying through the air (some of which landed on me!) and chanting the chorus at the top of their voices: “it’s bigger than hip hop, hip hop, hip hop!”

They then took it downtempo with No Way As The Way from Information Age (2012), followed by some of their solo material. Stic.man performed a never-heard-before track from his forthcoming album, The Workout 2. M-1 then performed Real Revolutionaries; his collaboration with Bonnot and General Levy from AP2P (All Power To the People), which samples Bob Marley’s Zimbabwe. DP have previously collaborated with Stephen Marley on Dem Crazy and M-1 gave a shout out to all the Marley children. He also mentioned the struggle of Palestinians and Mexicans today, showing they remain politically aware and engaged. The two members seemed to have a genuine respect and love for each other’s solo projects, which was nice to see.

DJ Mikeflo came out from behind the DJ booth for the last track Fuck the Police, climbing on the speakers with a slightly crazed look in his eyes! They finished up by taking a ‘grand selfie’ from the stage, with the audience in the background. I’d like to see it on the web at some point. They left Don’t Stop playing on the decks, as M-1 shook hands with people in the crowd. But unfortunately they did stop and didn’t come back for a requested encore, leaving us Shuffering and Shmiling.

10th Annual Poets Vs. MCs @ Concorde 2 – 24th Jan 2013

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Poet Michael Parker put it something like this, ‘a battle lasts a few hours, this has lasted 10 years, this isn’t a battle – it’s a war!’ This decade-long conflict between the Hammer & Tongue poetry collective and Slip Jam:B MCs is showing no signs of coming to any sort of bloody, gory, victorious conclusion any time soon. The annual event has historically been held at the more intimate Komedia, but judging by the size of the crowd, the relocation to Concorde 2 was a justified move.

Divided into 2 rounds and hosted by opposing team members and unlikely lovers, poet Rosie Carrick and MC Adam the Rapper, the couple kicked things off with their showcase pieces. Carrick was up first with a seedy poem about a sexually debauched trip to Russia. Following this, Adam the Rapper brought the audience back to gritty reality with a piece about being so skint, he once had to scrounge food from bins – ‘not just bin food, Marks & Spencer bin food!’

Each poet and MC then took their turn to dazzle us with stories of personal, emotional struggles (MCs Big Dave & Shrapnel) thigh-slapping humour (poets Chris Parkinson, Robin Lawley & Yvo Luna) and the downright sublime (poets Spliff Richard & Michael Parker).

The 2 rounds were broken up by a high-energy cypher, which saw the MCs freestyling to hip hop beats provided by DJ Ideal, exemplifying their ability to improvise lyrics and play off one another. In fact, they got a better reaction during this section, than they did in the competition rounds.

During the final battle round, it became clear that the poets had the overall edge, based on their diversity, individuality, humility and dare I say, insanity! While the MCs, in their homogeneous hoodies, jeans and caps seemed to morph into a single, collective entity. Indeed, some even performed in pairs or threesomes, which seemed somewhat unfair to the solo poets. With the exception of Big Dave, whose poem scorning the pretentiousness of poets, was actually better suited to the poets team, the MCs did themselves no favours by resorting to personal insults, such as likening Chris Parkinson’s hair to road-kill and telling Yvo Luna she smells of tuna. This didn’t go down well with the crowd and when they targeted the extremely popular Spliff Richard after his profound, authentic and heart-breakingly accurate anti-homophobia piece, “Whatever Happened to One Love,” the sound of jeering and booing almost drowned them out. The poets bolstered their position with more intelligent insults, such as Chris Parkinson’s resounding ‘Who would want to be an MC? Not me!’ and Michael Parker’s existential allusion to ‘nothing’ and the MCs mistaken belief that they are ‘something’, leading the audience to a rousing rendition of Edwin Starr’s “War” – ‘What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.’

Finally, the audience were asked to make their democratic decision and while the MCs got a decent round of applause, the cheers, foot-stomping, whooping and hollering for the poets, sounded an emphatic victory (not that the MCs accepted it).