Photo (c) Darren Paul Thompson
With an output so critically revered, there can be no doubt that Ghostpoet’s live presence matches his studio prowess
With two Mercury Prize nominations under his belt as of this year, it was no surprise to see a packed Marble Factory full of people in anticipation of seeing Ghostpoet. Ostensibly full with more than just the typical crowd of trip-hop aficionados one might expect at his show, there was bound to be plenty drawn in by the critical acclaim garnered by the London-born Obaro Ejimiwe since releasing his first album ‘Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam’ almost five years ago.
First though was support in the form of Cumbrian-native Junk Son, who, complete with saxophonist, performed a heady set that was tense and brooding as well cool and sophisticated. Almost bringing to mind a marriage of the chilled jazz of Bohren and der Club of Gore and the dark pop of, say, Grimes or Salem, it mirrored deftly what was about to come from the main act, with palpable excitement building for the London-based vocalist.
Bolstered by a blindingly good band – with whom he has recorded his latest offering, ‘Shedding Skin’ – the air was soon rendered thick with lush electronica and dark trip-hop beats showering down on the audience. From the get-go the set was nicely balanced between new material like ‘X Marks the Spot’ and, in his own words, “golden oldies” like ‘Cash and Carry Me Home’.
It is always gratifying to see when an artist’s well-spun back catalogue tracks take on a slightly different quality in live form and this was the case with the evening’s setlist – as if to match the somewhat post-rock direction of his latest work. Put simply, it all worked together seamlessly.
Emphasis was very much on Ghostpoet the musician as much as the lyricist. Where others may have stalled against the sonic force of guitar distortion, drums and synth, we saw Ghostpoet using his voice as much of an instrument as did any of his band members – for instance with the nuanced use of reverb on his vocals. His energy and the energy of the music juxtaposed and in a strange way perfectly dovetailed the languidness and spacy-ness of his vocals.
His repertoire is of its very nature, dynamic – sometimes suggesting a triumphant swagger, sometimes despondence. Nevertheless, all the textures of his live set – whether the icy grime-infused post-dubstep of earlier years or warmer, up-tempo ambient rock of late – induced a level of euphoria among the audience. Monday nights rarely get this rapturous.
Reciprocating an enthusiastic local crowd, Ghostpoet seems to enjoy playing Bristol – his music after all giving more than just the occasional nod of the head to the music spawned from this very city. After a stomping, pulsating main set, the band returned to encore an infectiously joyous ‘Us Against Whatever Ever’ – every person assembled must have found themselves bouncing along.
For an artist whose output is so critically revered, there can be no doubt that Ghostpoet’s live presence matches his studio prowess.
The set was purposeful, energising and life-affirming; intimate but also with a sense of accessible grandeur. It was the kind of gig where many who may have attended because they like his music or have a casual interest owing to his profile in the music press will surely have left as avid fans.
Check out ‘Sorry My Love, It’s You Not Me’ right here: