Loyle Carner’s latest album goes by the name of ‘Not Waving, But Drowning’ — but right now he is confidently riding a majestic wave of glorious euphoria.
Love was the vibe of this Saturday evening at Digbeth’s 02 Institute, with a show featuring frequent stops for outpourings of adulation from crowd to performer, as Carner’s humble persona put everyone present in a positive mood from the get-go.
A ‘Not Waving, But Drowning’ couplet of ‘Ice Water’ and ‘You Don’t Know’ opened up a 90 minute set of head-bopping beats and beautiful, truthful poetry from the South Londoner and his minimal but effective backing group.
Having found a way to channel his ADHD into poetry at a young age, Carner is now able to translate his experiences growing into manhood in a refreshingly relatable way.
He is one of the UK’s top rappers at a time when the genre is flying, but the 25-year-old doesn’t engage the world of flashiness and bravado others choose to immerse themselves in.
Instead, he takes time to dedicate songs to friends and family, even giving a shout-out at one point to a familiar face in the front row who he recalled from his first time playing in the second city.
The upbeat ‘Angel’, a hit with casual fans thanks to its presence on the FIFA 20 soundtrack, was an early highlight.
On the other side of the musical coin, debut album ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ opener ‘The Isle of Arran’ briefly took things in a much heavier, powerful direction.
This is a song that comes from a place of deep introspection, with Carner’s heartfelt performance resonating on a visceral level with the crowd.
The biggest reaction of the night so far came for ‘Ottolenghi’, which was dedicated to its namesake Yotam Ottolenghi, an Israeli-English chef and restaurant owner who Carner holds in extremely high regard.
‘Loose Ends’ was dedicated to Jorja Smith, whose chorus vocal adds so much to what is a truly moving set of lyrics.
‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’ and ‘No CD’s’ finished off the evening, closing things on a real high with mass audience participation for two of the catchiest refrains you’ll hear on a hip-hop record.
The stage and backdrop for the evening resembled a front room, with football shirts on display and a comfortable settee available for the performer to use as and when needed.
The set-up acts as a nice summary for the appeal of Loyle Carner — the rapper you can find ‘sipping on a Chai Tea talking all politely’.
He comes across as an honest, casual and laid-back superstar in the making.
Right now, the incredible wave he is riding only seems to be gaining momentum.
Review: Jordan Harris