Review: Ghostpoet – Nottingham Bodega Social (Live)

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We reviewed Ghostpoet’s performance at The Bodega Social Club in Nottingham.

Whilst only 2 years have passed since by Ghostpoet’s ‘Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam’ was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, it feels like so much longer. Acts have come and gone, the scene has changed, but one thing is certain, the honesty and allure of this most captivating of British artists has remained. Readers will remember our overtly enthusiastic review of his album ‘Some Say I, So I Say Light’ but while British hip hop’s love affair with Ghostpoet (real name Obaro Ejimiwe) continues, can the man himself bring the vigour and passion of his recordings into the live arena as he tours his latest work?

On the opening night of his highly anticipated 2013 tour, a sold out Nottingham Bodega Social would bear witness. Backed by a live band and some of the sweetest female vocals ever to grace the ear, the prodigy created 75 minutes of rhythmic bliss and musical honesty, with a set encompassing both his lauded debut and newest release.  Unlike some acts who attempt to implant live guitars and drums into a hip hop performance with mixed results, the instrumentalists in the backing band tonight merge themselves seamlessly into a soundscape primed and ready to be embellished.  In particular the addition of enveloping live percussion to classic tracks such as ‘Survive It’ and newer treats such as April’s single ‘Meltdown’, engineers a brooding musical backdrop for vocals the like of which you are unlikely to hear anywhere else in the near future.

Ghostpoet’s strengths lie in his lyrics and his delivery, both of which translate perfectly to the live environment. His phenomenal stage presence comes not from extroverted movement or showmanship, but from simple intense articulation and perfectly honed vocal rhythm. Tracks such as ‘Us Against Whatever Ever’ and ‘Cold Win’ are made more meaningful by the effortless depth given to each and every lyric that flows from the mic to the room. ‘Plastic Bag Brain’ is another highlight – given the live treatment and extended beyond its usual 4 minutes into near-ambient audio bliss which has the crowd swaying and nodding their heads in unison. If ever an artist has managed to make each member of an audience feel as though he was talking only to them, it was Ghostpoet, and it was tonight.

At several points during the show, Ejimiwe seems genuinely surprised at the capacity crowd, commenting ‘I never know whether you guys are going to turn out or not’. His humility shines through as he stops several times to thank the audience for coming – not that it was necessary. By the end of the show every member of the audience is entranced, a stunned silence falling over the huddled group as they realise that they have witnessed something very special. British music has found a shining light in Ghostpoet – an artist without compare in his genre, and one who brings his charisma and skill to the live microphone with a born ease. Do not pass up the opportunity to see him lightly, you simply won’t feel the same watching anyone else.

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Watch the official video for Meltdown here: