Before Crushed Beaks have even taken to the stage in support of Ghostpoet, Electric Brixton is already bubbling close to capacity such is the anticipation for Obaro Ejimiwe’s return to the capital. With ‘Shedding Skin’ came a record just made to be performed live, and with a string quartet setting up beneath his name in lights, beaming down over the grandiose-turned-battered surroundings of the South London venue, there’s a sense of spectacle that might’ve been hard for some to envisage in years gone by.
Opener ‘Better Not Butter’ maps out Ghostpoet’s new trajectory in the finest of fashions, positively soaring with the all the potential that a full live band affords. In short, it sounds pretty enormous, and there’s no doubt that what’s to come is his most expansive voyage to date. As he relishes in the time away from his control panel and the new streamlined simplicity that his vocal delivery is afforded, Ejimiwe’s given himself an inch, but taken a mile for all its worth.
Ghostpoet’s renewed focus is as clear as it could be tonight, and in a set dominated by ‘Shedding Skin’ material – he plays each and every track from this year’s record – it comes as a bit of a surprise when the first emergence of the aforementioned quartet is for ‘Peanut Butter Blues’ cut ‘Survive It’.
A mid-set lull is a tiny blotch on an otherwise stunning showcase, and serves to make everything that sits either side of it all the more impressive. It’s no truer than of ‘Cash And Carry Me Home’, another glimpse into the Ghostpoet of old as he comes leaning across the barrier in his signature mumble, the crowd more stirred by its danceable edge than the state of admiration they find themselves in for the most part.
Ejimiwe’s tried to distance himself from a London-centric tag, and with every right too; It’s music for the everyman, stories to connect regardless of geographical context. Tonight feels somewhat different though, and with numerous nods to the capital, Ghostpoet looks at home commanding the stage in Brixton, with all of the musical heritage that drips from the area. “This is my city,” he offers, as ‘Off Peak Dreams’ closes things out. In this moment it feels like there’s no better soundtrack to the capital’s streets.
You feel like there’s nowhere to go from this. His homage to “anyone doing a 9-to-5” feels like a fitting and electrifying sign off with the main man taking on the role of conductor, playing every chord and hitting every cymbal of his creation as it unravels around him. There’s a sense that some things are better left as they are, and as the band re-emerge it feels exactly the sort of occasion that leaves so many bemoaning the preconceived encore.
With the all-embracing manner that ‘Shedding Skin’ is brought to life and the new life that’s been breathed into previous incarnations, Ghostpoet’s shown that there are now countless moments of genuine wonder within his armoury. Surpassing expectation yet again, and quelling encore cynics, he has another left to give. “There was a lot of nonsense going on in my head, I wondered if I could make a third album,” he says in a touching address, visibly moved before embarking on the vanquishing ‘Nothing In The Way’. Any pre-album self-doubt seems resoundingly washed away and with good reason. On tonight’s evidence his “Nothing in the world can stop us” mantra has never been more fitting.
Photos: Abi Dainton
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