I have been a fan of Loyle Carner for a long time. His music has always spoken to me on a deep level, and I admire his skill, honesty and creativity. So when I got the opportunity to see him live at O2 Academy Bournemouth, I was over the moon. Not only was I getting the chance to photograph him as a photographer for Strong Island, but I also had my own tickets to see him again at his London show on the same sold-out tour. It was a dream come true for me, and I couldn’t wait to witness his magic on stage.
From the outset, Carner was back with a bang with his new album Hugo, and his live shows are nothing short of spectacular. It was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. He delivered a powerful and passionate performance that had the crowd on their feet from start to finish.
Carner’s music is a blend of hip-hop, soul and jazz, with lyrics that are honest, personal and political. His style of rap is unlike any other in the UK scene. He employs a languid and laid-back flow that contrasts with the fast-paced and aggressive delivery of many grime artists. His sound is jazz-infused and soulful, with smooth beats and melodic hooks that create a warm and nostalgic atmosphere. His lyrics are confessional and introspective, as he shares his personal stories and struggles with honesty and eloquence. He raps about his family, his mental health, his love life, his identity and his dreams with a vulnerability and sensitivity that touches the hearts of his fans. He also tackles some difficult topics that are rarely explored in rap music, such as the absence of fathers, racism, grief and forgiveness. He does not shy away from expressing his emotions, even when they are dark or hateful. He uses rap as a way of healing himself and inspiring others who can relate to his experiences.
The setlist included songs from his new album Hugo, such as Hate and Yesterday (feat. Lianne La Havas), as well as fan favourites from his previous albums. The show ended with a touching tribute to his dad, who passed away when Carner was young. It was a beautiful and emotional moment that moved everyone in the audience. Carner showed that he is not only a great rapper, but also a great son.
As a fan of his music, I was also deeply moved by his performance and the emotion of the audience. His music has always resonated with me on a personal level, as I can relate to some of the issues and experiences that he raps about. I felt like I was part of a community of people who understood and appreciated him and his music. The audience was very responsive and supportive, singing along, cheering and clapping. He created a positive and warm vibe that filled the whole venue. Truly one of the most memorable and emotional concerts I’ve ever attended.
As a photographer, I faced some challenges capturing the moments of the concert, as the stage was mostly lit by red lights which created a dark and moody atmosphere during the first three songs. Red lights can be tricky to work with, as they can wash out the details and colours of the subject and make them look flat or blurry. However, the performance also allowed me to explore my own creativity as a photographer, as I tried to capture the different aspects and angles of his rap style and personality.
Carner’s new tour is a must-see for any music lover who appreciates quality rap with soulful beats and meaningful messages. He is one of the most talented artists in the UK right now, and he deserves all the praise he gets.
Words and Photos by Matt Clark