The Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh
The Liquid Rooms darken, anticipation builds, and Kano bounces on stage. No messing: “Welcome to the jungle”. He launches straight in with ‘Hail’, the raw, guitar-heavy first track on his Mercury-nominated Man in the Manor. There is no doubt, since garage made room for grime over 10 years ago, that he has grafted, he has perfected his craft, and he certainly knows how to command the stage and create energy.
Backed by a live band rather than a DJ – typical of grime shows – he moves seamlessly from ‘Hail’ to the equally forceful ‘New Banger’ and then slows things down with ‘T-Shirt Weather in the Manor’. It is clear that he can do both: without question he can spit and fire up a crowd, but also calm things down and draw attention to the honesty and poeticism of his lyrics.
It is when he does the latter that Kano is most alluring. Mid-set, the emotion behind ‘A Roadman’s Hymn’ is startling. With each track, from the beautifully detailed depiction of ‘Drinking in the West End’ to ‘Nite Nite’ – from his 2005 debut Home Sweet Home – the crowd follow him as he guides us through simple, though importantly personal and relatable, scenes of his life, his attachment to which is clear by how he delivers them.
Although tonight is mostly about showcasing his new album, there are nods to his origins, to which Kano attaches an unnecessary disclaimer, because much to his surprise, the crowd know every word of ‘P’s & Q’s’ and ‘Typical Me’. We may not have even known what grime was, “back when Wiley was Wiley Kat” (as he raps on ‘This Is England’) but both are as meaningfully effective now as they were back then.
‘3 Wheel-Ups’ and ‘GarageSkankFreestyle’ draw the night to a close with a communal disregard for inhibition. Kano takes shows like this in his stride with natural confidence, yet the whole night was about everyone else as much as it had been about him. He has the ability to create an especially inviting atmosphere. Being alone, I never once felt lonely. In fact I felt part of something. There are not many artists that can do that, but then not many artists are like Kano.
Photo: Charles Lang