This Ghostpoet article was written by Lawottim Anywar, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Adam Barrett. Lead photo by www.blackxlist.tumblr.com
Most artists are aware of how to craft a set and how that creates a fulfilling show; balanced and considered song choice is key, as is the arrangement of the set. But it seems as if the elliptical gentleman Obaro Ejimiwe, aka Ghostpoet, does not always adhere to this mantra, with mixed results. If Ghostpoet’s set list crafting was as meticulous and full of colourful narrative as his lyricism, then it would make for a much more compelling live experience.
This isn’t to say that Ghostpoet isn’t a good live act, in fact, he is very much the opposite and his current live band is exceptional. The post-‘Shedding Skin’ band bring a huge amount of depth and energy to his live show, and they allow old favourites such as ‘Cash and Carry Me Home’, ‘Survive It’ and ‘Cold Win’ to actually come to life with a greater zest and warmth that can’t be found on ‘Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam’ or ‘Some Say I So I Say Light’.
In fact, it now feels like this band has allowed Ghostpoet to actually find a spot wherein he is most comfortable; the Ghostpoet live experience, especially from the ‘Peanut Butter Blues’ era actually lacked a lot of punch compared to this one.
But less can be said for the set list. The choice of songs was solid, sure; in every Ghostpoet track there is a story to relate to and something different to gain, like walking through pre-collapse Woolworths. But the order really left more to be desired in terms of energy. Granted, you can’t expect sea shanties, sing-alongs, mosh pits or mayhem at a Ghostpoet gig, but a light wiggle and shake is usually on the cards, surely?
By relying on material from ‘Shedding Skin’ too early on, it led to periods of the set wherein there was just too much of the same thing happening to hold anyone’s interest, with the grooves of ‘Us Against Whatever’ and ‘Cash and Carry me Home’ peppered throughout becoming jarring rather than the perfect rhythm to keep the set flowing, as for the most part, the ‘Shedding Skin’ vibe is rhythmically very similar and consistent.
Still, the new material is intense to experience live, in all the right ways. ‘Better not Butter’, ‘The Pleasure in Pleather’ and ‘Off Peak Dreams’ were all definite highlights. ‘Shedding Skin’ came through like a moment of clarity for a drunken poser. ‘That Ring Down The Drain Kind of Feeling’ sounded like Ghostpoet had been invited on stage, drunk, at a local jazz club to vent spleen minutes after a brutal break up. Maintaining the heavy atmosphere, The Marble Factory’s stripped back brick wall décor, warm sound system and solid engineering allowed for an amazing sound in the venue and Ghostpoet’s vocals were extremely clear in the mix, ensuring that the heft of his drawling, easy-flowing words weren’t lost among the noise.
Luckily, it’s easy to forgive a few dips and lulls in a live show’s energy when the atmosphere, sound and music is so consistently on point. The man seriously puts on a good show. Let’s just hope that Ghostpoet’s next poem-cum-gig is more about a gradual build up in tension and release, as opposed to a hit-and-miss PowerPoint presentation about varying states of melancholy.