Following the recent success of Top Boy, it’s easy to see how rapper Kano might get occasionally overshadowed by his convincing character, Sully, but his talent stretches so much further than this. If this is not made immediately evident from his highly acclaimed back catalogue (now 6 albums deep) then I strongly recommend you go to one of his shows. I had the pleasure of doing just this and, having come straight from interviewing the man himself, I was able to see Kano bring to life all that we had just discussed.
A little past 9pm and darkness suddenly filled the Birmingham Town Hall; an exciting alternative to the other more typical venues the city has to offer, and a deliberate choice due to Kano’s interest in ‘beautiful buildings’. To the delight of the anticipating crowd, the sound of violins then flooded the room, followed by the familiar eerie vocal sample from Free Years Later. Tension was gradually built until Kano finally graced the stage and launched straight into his formidable first verse with lyrical prowess. This carefully planned and executed entrance was an indicator of the impressive show we were about to experience; and it only got better. As Kano came to the end of this first number, applause rang out across the Town Hall.
Kano was not the only spectacle of the night, as he was joined on stage by a talented array of musicians (DJs, pianists, a brass band and a 5-piece choir), of whom he appears to value highly. The spooky drum beats in Good Youtes Walk Amongst Evil were brought to life by one of Kano’s band members tapping away at a drum machine and his choir’s beautiful harmonies elevated the performance. This contrasted well with the soulful Trouble up next and the spectacle was further enhanced by smoke machines and a spotlight that beamed down on Kano, creating an angelic image.
We were then teased with what sounded like Class of Deja, a high energy fan favourite, and it was beginning to seem like a step-by-step guide through his new album, Hoodies All Summer, when the track got wheeled up and replaced by the recognisable intro to P’s and Q’s. This turned the crowd into a frenzy as they joined Kano in chanting, “It’s K-A!” From a mesmerising lullaby start, this skilful performer now had everyone in the room in the palm of his hand, screaming his name. Kano drifted through his tracklist with ease and precision, even getting a little emotional at times, as he absorbed the electric atmosphere.
Tour: Birmingham. Thank you. pic.twitter.com/csEMeoHzPC
— Kano (@TheRealKano) October 6, 2019
Throughout the night, we were taken on a journey from energetic moshpits in T-shirt Weather in the Manor to swinging shoulders in Can’t Hold We Down. Kano’s ability to craft a show is reflective in the way he maintained the audience’s attention during his slower songs, which aren’t always obvious crowd pleasers. Teardrops, another highlight from the new album, brought about a particularly memorable moment where they ‘cut the beat and the whole choir [sung] “Hoodies All Summer”’. Kano was right, it just felt good.
Following a brief Made in the Manor throwback, Kano proceeded to round off Hoodies All Summer with Bang Down Your Door, Got My Brandy Got My Beats and Class of Deja before appropriately concluding on track 10, SYM. If anyone has the ability to turn the lyrics ‘suck your mum’ into a beautiful choral piece, it’s Kano and he too seemed to acknowledge the humour behind this – the balance between comedy and sentiment was perfected.
However, the night was not over yet. Of course, Kano could not leave without performing 3 Wheel Ups and I especially enjoyed the irony of it being wheeled up. From women like myself in standing to a father with his two sons on the balcony, everyone knew the lyrics (arguably the father more so than his sons), demonstrating that Kano has the ability to unite a crowd. After over 90 minutes of music, the explosive encore ended, and it was a struggle to hear My Sound over the chants for Kano. His sound is the realest, we all knew.
As people began to leave, Kano remained on stage, dancing arm-in-arm with his team to the chorus of Sister Nancy’s Bam Bam, a nod to his Jamaican roots. Perhaps realising the experience they had just created, Kano addressed the audience, “I appreciate the love, we all appreciate the love. Thank you very much”. I left feeling elated by this legendary performance from a genuine performer as the originality and level of talent was extraordinary.
Written by Char Stape.