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Kano, Brighton Dome review - simply joyous | reviews, news & interviews

Kano, Brighton Dome review - simply joyous

Kano, Brighton Dome review - simply joyous

Grime king exhilaratingly delivers home truths

Photos by Olivia Rose

Kano’s lyrics often sound like a wake, mixing mournfulness and anger as they raise a toast to fallen friends on abandoned estates, casualties of crushing pressures alien to the authorities who pronounce on them in the tabloids and parliament.

Hoodies All Summer is the sixth of his increasingly ambitious albums mixing snapshots and panoramas of East London life, making notebook observations and cogent protest calls, during a fifteen-year career which has earned Kano his crown as a grime king.

His musical sophistication, both slick and urgent, is a far cry from early hip-hop and grime gigs where the artist’s mere presence would do. “Trouble” describes “gunshots that don’t reach uptown”, but breaks off for gospel singers to give sanctified grace to his central retort to those who condemn estate violence: “we don’t want no trouble”. Again and again, a relentless simmer of threat is entwined with joyous celebration. “T-shirt Weather in the Manor” mixes CS gas and sun-kissed happiness, as Kano sighs: “Amidst all the bullshit it’s love, though.”

Two trombones and a tuba smash down hard, sometimes switching to swaying ska, and signalling grime’s sympathy with London’s new jazz generation (former Kano band-member Theon Cross recently headlined this stage with similarly unlikely, jazz-grime, raw tuba power). “Teardrops” becomes atmospheric and abstract as woozy psychedelic keyboards make seasick surges, and the gospel singers moan in silhouette.

“This Is England” nods to Shane Meadows’ film, but to older listeners may also recall The Clash’s last great song, an ironic litany of a cramped, hypocritical country assailed by violence. Kano describes a similar nation where “you’ve never seen a man buy a Bentley with a book”, leaving choices narrowed to bad ones, and him to rap “for the have-nots and the have-less”. He invokes the spirits of both Sam Cooke and Reggie Kray as he does so. And still, the music’s swaggering power exhilarates.

Kano by Olivia RoseKano’s message is as grimly serious as any, but its delivery is simply joyous. “SYM” is a frustrated history lesson of casually broken promises to immigrant generations: “Suck your mother and die, if you think niggas just love these cuffs and riots...different whip, different chain, different bracelet.” But as Kano’s always lucid flow becomes more urgent, it’s again broken by gospel balm, before keyboards ecstatically crest. Harsh power and rising light are the strangely complimentary sensations in this hugely redemptive and enjoyable sound. The massed arms raised in praise by the dancers in the stalls after “Pan-fried” show the reception from a crowd Kano feeds off. “3 Wheels-up” (a collaboration with Wiley and Giggs on record) is punched home by rave trombone, escalating till it draws one big roar and scream from fans. In a typical Kano combination, its tension becomes ecstatic. 

“If we don’t hold each other down, we won’t make it,” “SYM” insists, and this is music made to maintain such unity. The song lists “four hundred tears”, not wanting to let one fall unremarked. And yet there are grins everywhere at the end, Kano’s the widest. Though the next night’s hometown gig is at the Albert Hall, this South Coast triumph, which he calls “overwhelming”, is no second-best. If it was a wake, it was also a celebration of all the life still to be had, with work and luck. 


Kano’s message is as grimly serious as any, but its delivery is simply joyous


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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