Concert review: Loyle Carner offers openness and lyrical power at Newcastle's O2 City Hall

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The London based hip hop star blows away a sellout crowd in the North East.

For many, Loyle Carner is a perfct artist. A man who is open, respectful and kind while using his music to grow and keep an impressive fanbase across the UK and beyond. To others he is another face in a crowd. Just a dad and loving family man who you wouldn’t look twice at walking down the street if you didn’t know his face.

One of the most impressive things about the Lambeth-born artist is his ability to remain humble during a rise which has seen him release three albums, the most recent of which he is currently touring the UK to promote. In a similar way to Sam Fender’s ‘Seventeen Going Under,’ Carner – full name Benjamin Gerard Coyle-Larner – released his album ‘Hugo’ after writing content during the Covid pandemic when both artists had time to reflect.

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Hugo’s hugely personal themes of rebuilding paternal bonds and identifying as a mixed race man in the UK may not have resonated with every face in the crowd on a cold Thursday evening in Newcastle, but the love for the artistry and artist made the night feel like a homecoming show 300 miles from the headliner’s home and family.

Concert review: Loyle Carner offers openness and lyrical power at Newcastle's O2 City HallConcert review: Loyle Carner offers openness and lyrical power at Newcastle's O2 City Hall
Concert review: Loyle Carner offers openness and lyrical power at Newcastle's O2 City Hall

This lyrical openness is a huge part of who Loyle Carner is, but the mindset isn’t restricted to just the music, nor is the standard stage patter restricted to the standard ‘thanks for coming, who has seen us before?’ chat. Conversations about becoming a father, bad days regarding mental health and toxic masculinity all add to a sense that the artist is talking the capacity crowd on a deeply personal level.

“Wow” says the headliner towards the final half hour of a hugely impressive set. “This is a special one.” Covering his face to hide the emotion the rapturus crowd has given him only makes them cheer louder and brings the connection between artist and audience even closer in a way rarely seen in Newcastle from an act outside the North East.

The night wasn’t just a conversation between performer and crowd, obviously. The newest album, Hugo is arguably Carner’s best and, with a full band behind him in a new twist for the artist, every song was a stunning example of a man at his artistic peak.

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From the initial cymbals on the album and set opener ‘Hate’ the stunning guitar work between line breaks later in the show, the five-piece band offered a perfect backing to the words being thrust into the crowd while not overpowering the tracks. Moments of perfection also came in the form of a stunning key change during Fight or Plight which doesn’t appear on the album as well as arguably Hugo’s masterpiece, ‘Nobody Knows (Ladas Road)’ which Carner delivers with as much power as anyone can imagine he did during the first ever performance of the track.

While the performers acted as the glue for the night, a perfect moment came during Hugo’s ‘Blood On My Nikes’ when Athian Akec was welcomed to replicate his powerful Youth Parliament speech on knife crime. The moment silenced the sellout crowd and truly showed the immaculate way Loyle Carner can mix personal merits with artistic with ease, garnering huge support in the process.

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