“Seeing Ghostpoet counts as uni work because he’s a poet”, I kid myself, as I ditch my poetry seminar prep for my second visit to the Brudenell this week. Fortunately, this (gladly-taken) sacrifice definitely proves to be worth it; Ghostpoet does not disappoint.
The night commences with Norwegian singer-songwriter EERA (Anna Lena Bruland) who, despite having a faulty guitar, gives a flawless performance. Her sultry vocals combined with her sorrowful guitar sounds created a mystical, almost witchy atmosphere: perfect for the night before Halloween.
Ghostpoet continues this dramatic atmosphere into his entrance. After what feels like several minutes of ominous, reverberating synth, the Londonborn, spoken-word rapper confidently strolls on stage, suit-clad, alongside his similarly smartly-dressed band. “I absolutely love playing Leeds”, he says, grinning, after playing his first couple of songs – “I mean it: I don’t bullsh*t”. After a swig of red wine, and a chorus of appreciative cheers from the crowd, he swings into ‘Dopamine If I Do’, a track from his newly released album Dark Days + Canapes, with accompanying vocals from EERA – an absolutely magical collaboration. The clear passion he has for his songs and the messages he conveys through them completely enlivens his music: crossing that all-important boundary between simply playing the music, and performing the music. Throughout the set, Ghostpoet masterfully dips between songs old and new, with the Brudenell crowd caught in the grip of his powerful, unrelenting verse.
He takes us into a more slow-paced section, with the intense ‘Meltdown’ showcasing his raspy, languid vocals, and closing ‘End Times’ with a whispered, almost menacing repetition of “is it end times?”, into silence. Before drawing to a finish, he brings the show back up to energetic heights, with jazzy, hectic, yet harrowing new songs ‘Immigrant Boogie’ and ‘Freakshow’, and concluding with a triumphant encore of the old favourites everyone has been waiting for. His experienced rendition of the lifecontemplative ‘Survive It’ and crowd-favourite ‘Off Peak Dreams’ leaves us with no doubt about one thing only: Ghostpoet remains one of the most original, perceptive, and thrilling performers in the UK spoken word/hiphop scene.