Ben Coyle-Larner is a treasure. After the release of his first full-length album ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ in January, the staggeringly young rapper from south London has not been resting on his laurels, and is about to embark on an extensive European tour. His honest heart-on-sleeve lyrical style is constantly praised, and his increasingly interesting and varied hip hop production (provided by his long-time collaborator Rebel Kleff) has some serious bounce to it.
The first of Carner’s London concerts kicked off at the Shepherds Bush Empire, an expansive old theatre venue. Looking down at the numbers in the standing area of the venue gave a strong impression of how far Loyle Carner has come, and how quickly he’s made the journey. GIGsoup’s first encounter with the 21-year-old was at a tiny stage of British Summertime Festival last year, where barely a handful of people were politely watching him bounce around happily in the scorching midday heat. And now, but a year on, his lyrics and distinctive south London poet’s drawl is drawing in crowds in the thousands.
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At the Empire, the stage set up was homely; like your favourite grandma’s living room. Worn leather chairs, and the illusion of old book smell all create an idea of a down to earth character; showing off Carner’s persona fittingly. Kicking his set of with ‘Isles of Arran’, the first track from his new album, DJ Rebel Kleff projected gospel influenced tones across the crowd. Carner always appears on stage like a loaded spring; waiting to jump out at any moment, and this performance certainly carried a huge amount of energy with it. Famous for his crowd interaction, he spoke in length about the often mournful nature of his tracks: “I was interviewed by a magazine a while ago” Carner said “and he was like; ‘your music is great Loyle…but are you alright?’… when I’m sad I just pull out a pen and write bars!”
Joined by surprise guest and long-time friend Tom Misch for ‘Damsel Fly’, Carner flew through his ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ track list, including the tried and tested ‘Florence’; a longing fable about an imagined but absent little sister. ‘Florence’ originally started life as a piece of spoken word, of which Carner would inject into his sets. Now, as he has perfected his identity an craft, the track has been coloured in with gorgeous piano tones and a 808.
Rebel Kleff also played his part as both a spin-doctor and a rapper. Joining Carner vocally for a simply brilliant Tribe Called Quest tribute and the chugging original track ‘No CD’s’, Kleff showed off his vocal flex. Together they make a fun and loveable duo, bouncing off each other beautifully, just as two old friends should.
Carner is an exciting act to watch. He’s a true poet and a credit to UK hip-hop. He’s likeable and draws crowds in because of simply how unique and true to his style he remains. You can catch Loyle Carner throughout the UK and Europe on his Yesterday’s Gone tour.