Loyle Carner at Newcastle O2 Academy

Loyle Carner performing to a sold out crowd at O2 Academy (Credit: Jack Donnelly)

Loyle Carner brought a passionate and joyful show to a sold-out O2 Academy in Newcastle on Halloween night, but his performance was far more treat than trick.

Carner, real name Benjamin Coyle-Larner, hails from South London and has been active in the music industry since the early 2010s. It’s hard to classify him as just one type of artist, as his music blurs the lines between genres. You could say he’s a rapper, but when you mention UK rap, people will immediately jump to grime and drill. While that music scene is booming, with artists like Dave and Slowthai excelling this year, Carner offers something different altogether.

A lot closer to the American rap that grime evolved from, Carner’s songs are more soulful, with mellow beats and catchy hooks. The 25-year-old often incorporates poetry into his music, a passion he shares with his mother, Jean, to whom he dedicates a lot of his music.

Carner’s first official album release was back in 2017, with Yesterday’s Gone going on to receive a universally positive reception and a Mercury Prize nomination. His second album, Not Waving, But Drowning released in March of this year and would receive similarly positive feedback.

Carner came on stage with a massive grin on his face, wishing the crowd a “Happy Halloween” before breaking into Ice Water, the song he performed on the COLORS YouTube channel. He flowed straight into You Don’t Know, his second single from Not Waving, But Drowning, while giving the crowd their first taste of Rebel Kleff.

Kleff is a long-time collaborator of Carner’s and is also his tour DJ, meaning that there’s a feature artist at every stop on the tour. The song finishes, and the crowd goes into uproar, with Carner taking the time to address and thank his audience.

Carner had set up the stage to look like his mother’s living room – a bookshelf that Kleff had set the decks up on, a shoe rack next to an armchair, football shirts framed up on the walls. You instantly felt comfortable, as if you were just hanging out with Carner at home. Carner’s crowd control was incredible, with the artist constantly interacting with members of the audience.

Carner gave a shoutout to frequent collaborator Tom Misch, before joking that the artist was “too famous” to hang out with him anymore. He led into Angel, finishing up by claiming that the crowd “sang Tom’s bit better than he ever did.”

The man of the night slowed things down and dedicated a couple of songs to his mum, the first of which being the emotionally-charged Florence, in which Carner raps about the little sister he always wanted. He then took a seat in the armchair before performing the “softest” song he’d ever written, Dear Jean. The opening song of the album is a tribute to his mum, with Jean herself closing out the album with a response to her son, titled Dear Ben. The crowd respond to the tracks with thunderous applause, which Carner deflects onto his accompaniment on stage, as well as the sound technicians at the back of the venue.

This was a recurring theme of the night, and a true reflection of Carner’s personality. He is incredibly humble and grateful for everything he has, with the artist preferring to have the applause and commendation go to the people behind him first. After playing Looking Back and Still, Carner wells up, burying his face in his arm. This, of course, garners more applause and cheers from the crowd, which only makes the infectious grin on his face bigger.

Carner gives a speech to the crowd, citing nights like this one being a cure-all for anything that could’ve gone wrong during the day. He implores the crowd to look after each other and to enjoy life, before breaking into the fan favourite, Ottolenghi. The last line of Jordan Rakei’s hook echoes Carner’s statement – “Leave everything in yesterday.”

Carner keeps the bangers coming, ending his set with Ain’t Nothing Changed and Loose Ends, which features Jorja Smith, a name the crowd went wild for. Carner left the stage, but came back on to perform NO CD, which had the crowd going absolutely insane.

The most impressive thing about the performance was Carner’s own individual performance. His lyrics are intricate and complicated, but the artist delivered them flawlessly without dropping a single syllable. Overall, the gig was absolutely fantastic, with there being a real relationship between performer and audience. At 25, Carner has his whole career ahead of him and if it plays out anything like it has done already, he could end up being the voice of this generation.

By Jack Donnelly