LIVE REVIEW: Young Fathers, Kojey, Hot Vestry @ Riverside, Newcastle (21.5.15) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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We don’t get a lot of more underground or alternative rap and hip hop groups coming to the region. Now and then you might see one of the bigger R’n’B stars coming to the Metro Radio Arena – thus we’ve seen Nicki Minaj spout her weird, often incomprehensible babble there recently – but otherwise the north east is a little malnourished in this area. It’s therefore refreshing to see Scottish hip hop trio Young Fathers rolling up to the Riverside on their latest tour. Armed with a Mercury Prize-winning debut and a critically acclaimed sophomore effort, the threesome had a lot to live up to.

First, though, Macclesfield quartet Hot Vestry had the dubious honour of playing to a rather bijoux crowd. This turned out to be a shame; the group are tight, have some thoroughly intriguing songs and put me in the mind of a more raucous and danceable version of These New Puritans. They’re also as dirty and grubby as their name implies and, despite only playing to around twenty people, seemed to be thoroughly loving the whole experience. London rapper Kojey was similarly enthusiastic, excitedly spouting mini anecdotes and pumping up the crowd with his cheeky Cockney accent. His cockiness is backed up by an amazing flow and some vaguely experimental mash ups of rhymes, laid-back live guitar and homages to retro pop songs that means he could potentially rival Stormzy and George the Poet in the rising rapper stakes.

A common criticism lobbed at Young Fathers is that, apparently, “all their songs sound the same.” I’ve never quite understood where this is coming from personally, but had any sceptics been lingering around the audience looking for evidence of their apparent “saminess,” they’d have been sorely disappointed. There’s nothing generic or lacklustre about Young Fathers’ music and it’s even less so in their live performances. Alloysius, G and Kayus nonchalantly walk on stage and barely interact with the crowd at all through their non-stop set. For much of the performance the trio appeared to be in their own little world, thoroughly entranced by the very experience they were creating. Beginning with the incredibly confident No Way from their spectacular debut Dead, the trio barely paused for breath as they thundered through an hour-long set that contained tribal beats, heart-thumping bass, amazing vocal harmonies and an absolute shedload of fun. A personal highlight was their rendition of the incredibly catchy and upbeat Get Up, though their live version of Shame from recent second effort White Men Are Black Men Too brought out an hidden level of energy to the single.

Kayus and Alloysius at some points threw themselves around the stage and began some impromptu breakdancing while G stood statuesque and seemingly mesmerised by the whole event either by the keyboard or at the front of the stage. Often it was just the band’s chemistry and passion that was beautiful to watch. Special mention should also go to the trio’s live drummer, the only man I’ve ever seen play with a pair of tambourines. This otherwise unassuming man threw himself into the performance with such gusto that at times it was impossible not to marvel at his enthusiasm. At one point I feared he may have made himself extremely ill, as during the only vague lull in tempo towards the end of the set, he basically collapsed on stage. Then he returned to slamming his drum kit with unprecedented levels of vigor.

If anyone had any questions marks about Young Fathers’ power to amaze before the night, those doubts would have been well and truly dispelled.

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