Review: Loyle Carner @ Manchester O2 Ritz

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By Simone Richardson

Croydon rapper Loyle Carner combines his love of music and football, for a night to remember at a sold out Manchester O2 Ritz arena.

Appearing through a thick white smoke, Loyle opened the final show of his UK tour with ‘The Isle of Arran’, setting the energy high with gospel choir vocals chiming in the background.

The 23-year-old, who is known to swap his gig tickets for retro football shirts, rocked one from his collection whilst clinging to another in his hand as he spoke his poetry to music. Knowing Carner to be a die-hard Liverpool fan, it was unclear as to why both the shirt in his hand and the shirt projected on the backdrop of his stage were both Manchester United.

As the lights dimmed, Carner sat down in the leather armchair placed directly below the red top projection and explained: “When my dad passed away, I wrote this song and I called it ‘Cantona’ after his favourite United player, so that I could show him the ultimate sacrifice.”

“By bringing the one shirt I could never touch to every gig; I am showing him that this is just how much I love him. Make some noise for my family as I play it for you.”

The rapper’s stage name, derived from his dyslexic pronunciation of his real name Ben Coyle Larner, is well-known by fans for his sentimental values both on and off the stage. This aspect of his personality was reflected perfectly within the props presented in his performance, including several family memorabilia.

Described as a “chatterbox of tricks” in a recording he plays of his mum, Loyle continues to pause between songs to describe the meaning behind them. We find that ‘Sun of Jean’ is an amalgam of an old sample by his step-dad and a new poem by his mum bound together so that, despite his passing, they could be “together forever”.

Ben performs the smooth movements of his idol Mos Def, but utters the lyrics of something we as rap-appreciators don’t see very often. The lyrics aren’t that of most hip-hop artists around, involving women, money and disputes, but that of emotion and vulnerability. His words are warm yet touching and send shivers downs the backs of many as he pours out the words of ‘+44’. Although it is only 49 seconds in length, this song with no music accompaniment, is far from silent as the crowd match every word Loyle enunciates in his soothing, croaky tone.

Carner concludes with an unknown poem about the struggles of life away from home, and the crowd of mixed ages leave warm-hearted and buzzed to the strumming sound of Loyle’s step-dad’s, Yesterdays Gone.

This didn’t feel like a show, it felt like the biography of Loyle Carner and we now all owned a personal copy of it.

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Simone Richardson

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