Thursday, 6 February 2014

YOUNG FATHERS - Live at Leeds Belgrave Music Hall - February 6th

You'd forgive Young Fathers for being sick and tired of reading the same old story about their unlikely formation and Scottish hip hop roots. You see, people like to pigeon hole don't they. Have everything labelled neatly and know where it fits in the world. No more so than in popular music. When a band comes along that throws this nerdy necessity into a state of unruly confusion, 'the people' (bless 'em) become rather fretful and scurry around wondering what to do with it. So let's help them get over the fact this outfit (Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and 'G' Hastings) hail from Scotland and Alloysious was born in Liberia, Kayus has Nigerian parents (but born in Scotland) and 'G' is an Edinburgh boy. There lies the nuts and bolts of it, should you need the facts, but we're here in Leeds' Belgrave music hall on a damp miserable Thursday with slightly over a hundred others to embrace the music rather than fret about from where it came. Pigeon-holers look away now!

Despite being around for a good 6 years or so, Young Fathers are embarking on yet another mammoth tour (in part) to promote their debut album 'Dead'. An unreleased first album attempt was followed up with a couple of EPs (Tape 1 and Tape 2) and only now, well into their alternative hip-hop career, do they have an album to tour.  But what an album, and what a live display to accompany it. Explosions of colossal tribal rhythms (helped by a fourth member, clattering a huge drum and battered cymbals at the back) collide with distorted electronics while the three MCs go about their work. This consists of a combination you're unlikely to bare witness to anywhere else in the world of live music. What sets them apart from your average 'another hip hop group' is their combined range of vocals. One minute it's a pop dream, ('Low') soaring vocal harmonies and moves almost synchronised in a boy band style. The next it explodes with beats and those moves are blown apart as they throw individual furious shapes across the stage. All three of the Young Fathers fluctuate between a dark and brooding Massive Attack like vocal approach, mixing in spoken word akin to Saul Williams, then switching in an instant to beautiful, tender falsetto moments ('War').

It's hugely infectious, warming up this cold, far from full room track by track as the set continues. Clearly 'Dead' has been snapped up by many, as single 'Get Up' provides another chance to flail some limbs and stomp across the boards in front of the stage. A couple of older favourites are met with squeals of approval, notably 'Queen Is Dead' from Tape 2, the African beats coming to the fore. Then finishing this blistering set with the much gentler 'I Heard', from the same EP.   

 Between tracks, the three MCs stare out at the gathered movers and shakers, eye-balling without a word spoken throughout. They blazed into Leeds and left their mark as they have done in venues up and down the country for years.  Young Fathers are Dead, long live Young Fathers!

Words - Pete Jackson