Benjamin Coyle-Larner, aka the musical maestro Loyle Carner, kicked off his Hugo tour with a bang at Nottingham’s iconic Rock City on the 6th of March 2023. This night was like a magical mixtape, blending heartwarming odes to his old man, funky jams with the uber-talented Tom Misch, and a deep dive into the rhythm of his upbringing and today’s society. All of this flowed through his lyrical genius and artistic flair.

When it comes to the cream of the crop in the UK Hip-Hop universe, Loyle Carner’s name is right up there, no questions asked. Forget the Grime or Drill hype; we’re talking about the pure, unadulterated essence of Hip-Hop. Loyle Carner has infused the scene with a dose of originality and relatability that has people worldwide perking up their ears and venues selling out faster than you can say hotcakes.

Nottingham is famed for its raucous crowds, but it takes something truly extraordinary to pack a house as legendary as Rock City on an average Monday night in March. Yet, that’s precisely what went down, and the energy in that room was cranked up to eleven.

Plunging us headfirst into Hate, Carner ignited the venue with his haunting lyrics – a fresh twist from what we’ve come to expect from him. He catapulted us into a whirlwind of thoughts, unravelling intense internal battles, and setting the stage for this tour – a journey into the raw and fragile realm of identity.

Carner then threw us a delightful curveball by easing into a mellower tune, You Don’t Know, as a soothing balm to cool down the tempest stirred up by Hate. Bathed in the warm glow of the live band behind him, Carner took us on a trip down memory lane, serenading us with anthems from his past. By contrasting his present music with his past creations, the entire set felt like a reconciliation with Carner’s former self – a time he openly admits he was somewhat estranged from his father. It was a musical journey through the pages of his life, and we were all on board for the ride.

He effortlessly weaved between songs from his past and present during his set. But what truly stole the show, was his rendition of Blood on my Nikes. With the live band in full swing and the inclusion of Athian Akec’s impassioned speech, they conjured something truly magical and real. This performance shone a searing spotlight on the grim realities of knife crime in London and Akec’s heartfelt plea for recognition of these sensitive issues left the audience completely stunned.

Once Carner’s extraordinary set ended, the crowd wasn’t ready to call it a night just yet. They tapped into their inner chant magicians, hoping to summon the rapper back for one more tune. Their relentless pleas didn’t fall on deaf ears, and Carner made a triumphant return to the stage, ready to serve up a musical treat – Ottolenghi. As the final notes of the song filled the air, the crowd showered Carner with the same unbridled enthusiasm they’d been dishing out all night. With a colossal grin on his face, Carner bid his farewell, leaving the stage to a chorus of cheers and applause.

Carner’s knack for transforming songs into a full-blown sensory spectacle is nothing short of mind-blowing. His bond with his fans was nothing short of beautiful, and he put in a genuine effort to bring us closer to his life. Loyle Carner is undeniably the missing piece that the rap scene has been longing for. He’s the real deal, and he brought an energy to the stage that left us all buzzing.

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Words by Kay