Review: Loyle Carner at the O2 Ritz

  • Olivia-Marie Baron reviews Loyle Carner's latest live gig in Manchester
  • The hip-hop rapper performed at the iconic O2 Ritz music venue

“This is my favourite place in the whole of the UK. We made Manchester the last place of tour on purpose, cos it’s ******* mad.” says Loyle Carner, the hip-hop rapper who has just performed to hundreds at Manchester’s beloved O2 Ritz.

Carner was right to marvel. I can’t say I’ve ever been to many hip-hop concerts in my life. But when I overheard the up-and-coming rapper was due to perform in Manchester, my ears couldn’t help but prick up.

More of a Courteeners girl than a Kate Tempest fan, I was honestly nervous to be on my way, with four excitable friends, to watch Carner’s last performance of his Yesterday’s Gone Tour.

On arrival at the Ritz, the atmosphere was electric to say the least. Hundreds of students lined the street, some drunker than others, all queuing for their turn to enter Manchester’s iconic music venue.

Having only listened to a few of Carner’s songs in the run-up to the gig, I wondered if I’d made the right decision. I had paid £20 for my ticket yet never truly enjoyed hip-hop.

Looking around at all the excited faces watching the stage as the support act finished their set, I began to question why an indie gig lover was suddenly throwing themselves into the world of hip-hop.

But then, the room went black. The stage lights beamed upwards. Screams deafened my ears. Carner sprung to the stage, uttered his first line of The Isle of Arran. And right then, I knew why I was there.

I watched the stage admiringly as every song, every bittersweet melodic yet playful symphony that voiced from his lungs, got the whole room bouncing off the floor. Tune after tune played, Florence, NO CD, Damselfly. It was like reading poetry to the sound of a catchy beat. Each song receiving a louder response every time.

Right there, an undoubtable feeling of absolute awe came over me as I stood impressed at what the 23-year-old had already achieved in his career, and at such a young age.

A young lad raised in Croydon, Carner first took to the stage in October 2012 supporting MF Doom. His first extended play track in 2014 started turning heads and since then he has toured with the likes of Joey Badass, Kate Tempest, Nas, and even performed in the UK’s festival season, including Glastonbury Festival. His debut album, Yesterday’s Gone, was released in January 2017, followed by the subsequent tour.

“Of course I’m sad, I lost my ******* dad” Carner rapped as he clutched a red Manchester United top. The Manchester City fan gave a moving performance, reading his mum‘s poem about her son, over a piano sample played by his late stepfather, a Manchester United fan.

It was a heartstring-tugging expression of his mother’s love and moving tribute to his dad. His hand pulsed up and down, symbolising Carner performing on stage with him. My eyes were locked onto him.

The emotion he put, not only into his lyrics, but into his performance was so magnificent, I was reduced to tears. This emotion was echoed in every song Carner delivered, painting a true picture of his life, from his mum wanting a daughter, to his ADHD suffering. That’s what made this gig so raw.

Maybe hip-hop is my thing.