Young Fathers London’s Kojey Radical and guitarist Jude entertain with some slick rapping that incorporates Minnie Riperton, Shakespeare and a Talk box. It takes a few songs for the poet to get the crowd on side, but with the aid of his “poetry turtle neck” and a warm self-deprecating manner his first visit to Birmingham turns out to be a success.
Kojey Radical A loud drum beat summons Young Fathers to the stage, where three microphones wait in readiness. As Alloysious Massaquoi takes up position behind one of them, Kayus Bankole stands, back turned, further down the stage with G Hastings twisting dials and pressing buttons on a box of tricks, emitting the sounds that morph into ‘No Way’, the opener from their Mercury prize winning debut album Dead. It’s not the most conventional of starts, but then the Scottish trio are not ones for convention. They re-group and huddle for ‘Deadline’ before injecting ‘The Queen Is Dead’ with enough power to incite a riot.
Young Fathers Save for Stephen Morrison at the back, whose hand you occasionally glimpse above their heads before it comes crashing down again on the drums, the majority of their set relies on sheer vocal ability, supported by the schizoid electro beats and bleeps from G Hastings’ box of tricks. That and the occasional outbursts of spontaneous dancing from Bankole, that stir up even more energy. For ‘Feasting’, from their follow up album White Men Are Black Men Too, the brooding and sinister bass is complemented by Massaquoi banging on a drum as G Hastings stares out emotionless into a crowd that they don’t waste any time or effort ingratiating themselves with. Their focus is purely on the music and the performance. “Can you dance”? G Hastings asks during a rare moment of interaction. An enthusiastic “Yes” is met with “That’s a shame” before they launch into ‘Shame’ one of WMABMT’s standout tracks. It is this purely punk attitude that makes them such an enthralling live experience.
Young Fathers Hip hop, electro, soul and R&B all find a place in the melting pot of styles that they manage to cram in to their repertoire. ‘War’ and ‘Old Rock ‘n Roll’ nod to their African roots with Massaquoi picking up a tribal looking shaker to add to his soulful croon. There are times during the set when you start to question where you are. Rather than being holed up in an upstairs room, you could easily be in a tent at a festival or in the arches of an underground rave, such is the transformative power of their music. I Heard, completes the set and sees Massaquoi combine body popping with robotic dancing, taking the song into the realms of performance art. Then the flow is broken and they leave the stage and you know there is no way they are coming back on. Photographs by Paul Reynolds.
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