Before erupting into their performance of Cocoa Sugar’s lead single ‘Lord’, Graham “G” Hastings of Young Fathers announced, mid-set, “Glasgow – you’re the best fucking crowd in the world!” Such a cliched message usually just comes off as cringeworthy but in the case of this Young Fathers’ show – that packed the entire O2 Academy – you could tell they meant every word.
The O2 Academy, a venue that is truly astronomical in scale, was packed to the rafters with fans of the Edinburgh native, and Mercury prize winning, rap group. Having recently performed at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow following the release of their third studio album Cocoa Sugar, this next performance at the Academy followed shortly after. The difference in venue impacted the atmosphere – the seated balconies created a sensation of less intimacy, but the group seemed to thrive off the larger crowd. What was lost in intimacy was made up for in energy. The natural opener for Young Fathers’ sets of ‘Get Started’ followed by ‘Wire’ brought the concert immediately to life. The “oh ya fucker” refrain of ‘Wire’ was delivered with such ferocity, backed up with a synth lead that sounds much more manic when performed live, resulted in the crowd immediately erupting to their feet be they standing or seated. This rendition of ‘Wire’ was part of a general trend of the live instrumentation being ramped up to levels not present in the studio recordings.
This counteracted the somewhat stripped back nature of Cocoa Sugar to make the more easy-going songs like ‘Wow’ still get the crowd amped up. Injecting energy like this enabled songs to take on a totally new mood – the sweet and serene ‘Dare Me’ performed live took on a menacing tone with a bass that rocked the entire academy. A clear difference from the Barrowlands set was the group’s willingness to tone it down, with moments like ‘Lord’ giving the crowd a much needed respite.
Often the best moments of the set were when the creative freedom found in live performance resulted in the group attempting to fill the empty space found in their more stripped back moments. Naturally, this would not have lent well to a live performance and thus thankfully, new live contributions, for example, the group ad-libbing over each other, and G’s beatboxing over musical gaps granted a sound which was more sonically full. What often hindered Cocoa Sugar was the squeaky-clean nature of its production, but by taking this maximalist approach, the group managed to drastically enhance the live experience.
Furthermore, the group brought much more visual accompaniments to their performance. Alloysius & Kayus danced madly throughout the performance, much like in the Barrowlands set, but perhaps relishing more in the larger audience.
In general, the effort and energy the band put into their performance made their enjoyment obvious. Thus, when the group also dotted the tracklist with crowd-pleasers like ‘Queen Is Dead’ and the closer ‘Shame’, as if they were thanking the audience for the wonderful evening.
Image: Paul Hudson via flickr