Approaching the Wardrobe to see Lowkey, I was nervous. Not only because I’d decided to jump in an Uber on a 2.7 surge, but because often, intricate, intelligent songwriting doesn’t translate to a fantastic live show.
My apprehensions were erased before the show even began. A huge line snaked from the show, brewing an atmosphere which turned electric the second it passed into the modest venue. People were ready.
Awate was the first act of the night. Having attracted praise from Idris Elba and Kanye West, Awate delivered, treading a perfect line between introspective lyricism, drawing laughs and whipping up the hype.
Lowkey arrived quickly. After a four year absence, it was as if he had never been away. Plunging straight into the timeless Soundtrack to the Struggle, he barely had to say a word; a captivated audience volleyed each lyric back with as much passion as he had imbued to it. If his hiatus had done anything, it had filtered all except purists from the crowd. Each audience member realised the magnitude of the event, as a freestyle wrought the greatest cheer of the night.
An acapella Alphabet Assassin was the highlight of the set. Each sixteen bar consisted solely of alliterative use of a letter of the alphabet, proving both a triumph of wordplay and tongue twisting ability. Mindblowing.
He brought out long-time collaborators in Mia Khalil and Black the Ripper in the gigs closing stages- as much to consolidate his performance as it was a gift to the fellow performers. Long live Palestine; Long live Gaza echoed round the venue, as well as ‘hip hop ain’t dead, it’s in Leeds now’.
Lowkey was aiming for much more than nostalgia with this tour; it was about community. This was a celebration of the connection music generates.