Review: Loyle Carner TKMaxx Summer Sessions, Southampton  Guildhall Square 

Review: Loyle Carner TKMaxx Summer Sessions, Southampton  Guildhall Square 

Words and pictures by Rhona Murphy.

Saturday night in Southampton and the question on my lips was is the city that has welcomed established family favourites such as Sir Tom Jones, Madness plus Gnarls Barkley & Chic in recent weeks to the transformed pop up music hub in Guildhall Square, ready for a totally different hip hop rapper artist?

The buzz of excitement coming from the masses walking round in circles trying to find the entrance (!!), many of whom were wearing ‘Hugo’ tee shirts, allayed all my fears. 

Some background – Benjamin Gerard Coyle-Larner, (his stage name is a spoonerism of his surname), performs under the name Loyle Carner and is one of the leading voices in British rap. ‘Hugo’ is Carner’s third studio album released in October 2022 (it was shortlisted for the 2023 Mercury prize). Carner’s debut album ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ ( 2017) was also nominated for a Mercury Prize but lost out to Sampha  with the album ‘Process’. In 2018, he received two respective Brit Awards nominations for British Breakthrough Act and British Male Solo Artist.  Loyle Carner’s second album ‘Not Waving, But Drowning’  followed in 2019.

Recent shows have been largely constructed around the album ‘Hugo’, which takes a broad look at Carner’s  relationship with his biological father, his experience as a mixed-race young man growing up in south London, and the scourge of knife crime that’s afflicted the capital.

If the TKMaxx Summer Sessions were looking for a polar opposite to Sir Tom they certainly have it with Carner.

The show is scheduled to start at 8.45pm and as the light begins to fade, a roar goes up from the crowd exactly on time and Carner bounces onto the stage wearing the traditional rap uniform of hoodie and cap. He launches straight into ‘Hate’:

“Let me tell you what I hate, everything I ain’t Everything I’ve done, everything I break,”   and the audience sings back every word. It’s all going to be okay, Carner has them transfixed!

Carner is  a true genius at songwriting. I read a quote about him which said “he automatically thinks visually, which is why I think he’s such a good storyteller.” It’s like a hard-hitting bedtime lullaby as Carner works his way through a setlist drawn from all 3 albums including the hit ‘Ottolenghi’ from the album ‘Not Waving, But Drowning’ . The only thing that could have improved that particular song was if the original guest vocalist Jordan Rakei had popped up on the Southampton stage.

As the set draws to a close I feel I’ve gone on a journey with Carner and the entire crowd. Each song blended into the next one. Each one as strong as the one before and the one after.

Loyle Carner seemed genuinely touched, overwhelmed and surprised at the welcome he received from the crowd. The sea of ‘Hugo’ tee shirts along with the echo in the Southampton evening skies as the audience sang the lyrics back to him made him lost for words at times.

Carner has a busy summer ahead of him with festivals/shows across the UK and Europe. Quite simply if you get the chance to watch him play live grab it. I’m off to invest in a ‘Hugo’ tee shirt. 

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