Live Review

Young Fathers claim special place in Royal Albert Hall lineage

22nd March 2024

The Scottish group continue to go from strength to strength, and this performance feels particularly powerful.

Since the millennium, Roger Daltrey of The Who has curated a series of annual concerts to support the incredible work of Teenage Cancer Trust, performers at which have included the likes of Paul Weller, Ed Sheeran, the Gallagher brothers (separately, natch), and Wet Leg. In the case of Young Fathers - a twice Mercury Prize-shortlisted, vital contemporary voice who take as much inspiration from soul and pop as they do hip-hop – playing a show at Kensington’s Royal Albert Hall, itself a Victorian institution that’s known for hosting the greats of British art, has a palpable significance to it.

Tonight, support comes courtesy of Murkage Dave, who, with the help of his trusty boombox, quickly captivates the swelling crowd with his ‘00s R&B-tinged beats, astute lyrical observations, and singular, soulful voice. To open the show in such a cavernous (yet strangely intimate) venue is no mean feat, much less when the weight of winning people over rests on your shoulders alone, but he manages to make it seem easy; between the wry, self-aware onstage patter (“I can’t afford a band just yet. Have you seen what they’re paying for a stream these days?”) and the tracks’ understated poetry, it’s not hard to see why the East Londoner is joining Yard Act on a string of upcoming tour dates, too.

Young Fathers give special show at Royal Albert Hall for Teenage Cancer Trust Young Fathers give special show at Royal Albert Hall for Teenage Cancer Trust

Though the majority of tonight’s crowd have seated tickets, you can’t help but think that very few here ever had the intention of remaining so, such is the collective arising as soon as Young Fathers launch into early highlight ‘GET UP’. There’s little in the way of stage set beyond the tattered sheet that forms their now-signature backdrop, but you get the sense that anything more elaborate would simply be needless distraction; everyone on stage – including the forty-strong Nia Choir who flank the group – are evocatively illuminated with footlights, sending band-shaped shadows (think The Cure’s ‘Boy Don’t Cry’ artwork, with added animation) dancing over the canvas.

Indeed, animation is the name of the game: Young Fathers’ core trio (Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham 'G' Hastings) seamlessly flit between manning different instruments (including two separate drum set-ups) and sharing vocal duties, all the while ringleading the onstage ensemble – and, in extension, the whole room – in dance-fuelled revelry. Every high kick, hair toss, and holler is imbued with joy, every movement so gloriously unselfconscious that the night feels closer to a carnival than it does a gig.

Young Fathers give special show at Royal Albert Hall for Teenage Cancer Trust Young Fathers give special show at Royal Albert Hall for Teenage Cancer Trust

Each song is met with equal gusto, regardless of whether it’s lifted from 2023’s acclaimed ‘Heavy Heavy’ or further back in Young Fathers’ discography, and when they lead us in an increasingly frenetic, set-closing call and response, the crowd are willingly and wholeheartedly in the palm of their hand. It’s the work of a band who are utterly in control – a band who are resolute in what they stand for (at one point they call to “Free Palestine - stop the genocide”), and who evidently have much more in the locker. But beyond even that, it’s the work of a band who inspire the potency and rare magic of a truly unified crowd; by the end of Young Fathers’ turn at the Royal Albert Hall, it’s as if their accompanying choir isn’t 40-odd singers, but 5900 strong.

Tags: Murkage Dave, Young Fathers, Reviews, Live Reviews

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