Loyle Carner’s deeply personal approach to his music and lyrics is not unusual. But, somehow, hearing an entire crowd of mostly young men aggressively shout ‘Pancakes’ catches my heart a little bit more than most.
Mid-set, Loyle Carner performed ‘Florence’, a song he wrote about the little sister he never had, dedicated to his mum. With the music and the beat shaped around the lyrics, his promises to his non-existent little sister, including making her some pancakes, rang in my head – he has perfected the art of story-telling through his music.
‘Tierney Terrace’, another one of his early singles, had the crowd shouting alongside Carner: ‘Of course I’m fucking sad. I miss my fucking Dad’. Fans, eagerly sympathised with the heart felt anthem ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’ and nostalgically reminisced about spending money on old CDs during ‘NO CD’, warmly reacting to Rebel Kleff joining on stage. Loyle Carner even played a song that he collaborated with Tom Misch on, but left out ‘Crazy Dream’ – if a song with Tom Misch was going to feature in the set, surely that would be the obvious choice.
The set expertly meandered between upbeat bouncing bangers and slow heart-felt stories. Carner owned the stage, needing none other than himself to set the tone for the night. The staging was minimal and the lights added little interest to what was already there – pure talent that needed no embellishment.
Before each song that meant the most to him, Loyle Carner asked the crowd if he could tell them the story. Despite these dedicated fans already being well aware of the stories behind his lyrics, they screamed in approval. This is the kind of storytelling you want to hear again and again, each time understanding even more and each time, the meaning resonates harder.
‘+44’, a 49 second album track with no backing music, rendered the room almost silent, in awe of the rhythm of his voice like music itself. It was almost like slam poetry with hints of Watsky – lyrically perfect, honest and relatable.
Loyle Carner finished his set by explaining why he gripped an old football t-shirt when he performed. “This is my Dad’s. I bring it with me on stage so my Dad can be here with me”. The story-telling continued and Carner explained how the name of his album ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ is named after a song his Dad wrote. His Dad’s song ended the set and finished with a video of his Mum describing Loyle Carner as a child.
We left the Engine Rooms feeling like we now knew so much about this artist’s life, even as fans in a crowd who had never had a conversation with him, we felt a little bit closer to him and his story.