Swing slightly off Elephant Road from the South Roundabout or Walworth Road Approach and you’ll end up at a place called Corsica Studios. Originally called Corsica Arts Club, it champions creativity and culture in areas of regeneration, operating as a form of studio arts collective. Some of London’s best promoters also host their nights here in the form of Tessellate, Percolate and Find Me in the Dark. Across the road from the closing Coronet Theatre, Corsica is one of Elephant and Castle’s mainstays and a long time favourite of London’s music heads.
Ben Coyle-Larner, better known as Loyle Carner, undoubtedly chose this venue for its stripped back presence and its spartan good looks. Much like his Florence video, and echoed at our interview with him back in May, Loyle is the artist, curator and editor of all aspects of his art. It’s a shout out to his days at the BRIT School and an extended homage to everything that’s influenced him. That’s a lot of things: his Mum, Step Dad, brother, grime, poetry, and Common/Mos Def. It’s a sum of all these parts versus a sum of all his past familial fears, which Loyle Carner seems to have now reconciled, even embodied, for the second stop on his tour at Corsica Studios.
Ever since we dropped in on South London collective Steez back in 2014, the likes of Jesse James Solomon and King Krule have been engendering this uncooked lyricism that struck a chord with the wider English youth. If Steez are the bastions of this unrefined genre, then Loyle Carner is their main voice. And this is a voice that harbours a fast-learned maturity that speaks eloquently on life, love and loss. Breaking into his sublime A Little Late EP, standout moments BFG and Cantona permeate the venue, reminding the audience that between all the sensitivities, Rebel Clef’s production is made for big room UK hip-hop.
“Everybody says I’m fuckin’ sad/ Of course I’m fuckin’ sad, I miss my fuckin’ dad,”. Moments like these aren’t just crowded rooms giving renditions of Loyle’s confessional hip-hop; instead, you feel that this was always his intention, unified lyrically with his audience, sanitising the inner sadness that some of these songs hold. If there was ever a question of how Loyle’s brand of lyrical intimacy would translate to a venue space, then this is put to bed. And to those questioners, Ain’t Nothing Changed – the high production values of this AMF records crooner, slick over the Corsica crowd. It re-imagines the Guru/Premier blueprint, while we “kinda miss our student loan”. It goes some way to explaining Loyle’s demographic, which is a broad sweep of twenty-somethings, hip-hop purists and those looking for the new Mos Def.
The highlights extend way beyond this of course. Loyle’s prefaces to his songs are interspersed with assertions that he’s in disbelief: sold-out venues, the audience knowing every word, the news that he is to have a newly adopted sister (“You better make as much noise for her as you do for me when we perform Florence together”). He even got his mum on stage at one point in a heartwarming gesture. The Florence acapella simmers slowly above the audience before he breaks into his stripped back Radio 1 cover of Kanye West’s Heard ‘Em Say.
Carner’s soul-baring performance is part confessional, part tribunal for his past sadness and fully one of the greatest shows we’ve seen this year. And, as with all the great artists of our times, Carner makes himself vulnerable to give a truly invulnerable performance.
Words: Luke Wilson